Baton Rouge native Christian Davenport will serve as the city-parish's first poet laureate — a position that comes with a $5,000 stipend to cover community engagement events over Davenport's one-year term, Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome announced Tuesday.
The poet laureate program is designed to celebrate the city's "rich culture and diversity" through work Davenport will do over the course of the year in his written work and outreach to the community through programs and teaching, Broome said in a news release.
The program was initiated by Broome and facilitated through the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge. The funds provided for the position's stipend were contributed by private donors, the news release states.
"Christian’s impressive body of work represents new styles in poetry which require collaboration and communication, attributes that will serve him well as the city’s poet laureate," Broome said. "I look forward to adding this great work to the cultural conversation across our city."
Davenport, known as Cubs the Poet, is a Dillard University graduate who plans to self-publish his first book soon. He has been a featured speaker for a Ted Talk in Rapid City, South Dakota and performed his poetry in Baton Rouge and Preservation Hall in New Orleans.
The naming of poet laureates by cities appears to be part of a growing trend, one that was explored by the New York Times in 2013.
"The rapid rise in poets laureate, especially in small cities and towns, makes it difficult to know their exact numbers," the article states. "But according to the Academy of American Poets, at least 35 larger cities have poets laureate."
Louisiana has a state poet laureate. The New York Times reported that all but six states had poet laureates as of 2013 and that their number had doubled over the preceding decade.