Jennifer Bartell Boykin named Columbia’s City Poet Laureate

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As one of only a few southern cities to recognize the position, One Columbia for Arts and Culture and the City of Columbia are proud to announce the selection of poet Jennifer Bartell Boykin as Columbia’s second Poet Laureate. Bartell Boykin will serve a four-year term that begins January 2022.

Recognized by the Mayor and City Council in a resolution passed on October 21, 2014, the honorary position of Poet Laureate “encourages appreciation and create opportunities for dissemination of poetry in Columbia, promotes the appreciation and knowledge of poetry among the youth, and acts as a spokesperson for the growing number of poets and writers in Columbia.”

“Sharing the stories and art within our community are critical to our success in Columbia,” says Mayor Daniel Rickenmann. “I am honored to welcome Jennifer Bartell Boykin as the new poet laureate for the City of Columbia and look forward to seeing her success representing our great community.”

“I am very pleased with the selection of Jennifer Bartell Boykin as the Columbia Poet Laureate,” says Councilman Howard Duvall, who represented the Arts and Historic Preservation Committee in the selection process. “She will be the perfect person to build on the foundation established by Ed Madden.”

Jennifer Bartell Boykin is originally from Bluefield, an African American community in Johnsonville, South Carolina. For most of her career, she has been an educator, most recently as an English teacher at Spring Valley High School. She holds a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and a Graduate Certificate in Women’s and Gender Studies and is currently pursuing a Master of Library and Information Science degree from the University of South Carolina. She has sponsored the Poetry Out Loud competition and W.O.R.D. (Write.Organize.Read.Dream), Spring Valley High School’s poetry club. She’s been a regular participant in work under the post of Dr. Ed Madden, served as a former board member for the Deckle Edge Literary Festival, and contributed to the work of The Jasper Project; including writing for Jasper Magazine, serving on its board, and writing for special projects such as The Supper Table and Marked by the Water.

“I am honored to become the city’s second poet laureate,” states Ms. Bartell Boykin. “Ed Madden set a blueprint for the Columbia Poet Laureateship, and I will continue to build on his legacy. I am elated about spreading more poetry throughout our schools and in our communities. Poetry is for everyone, and I’m excited to facilitate bringing more of it to every corner of our city.”

Bartell Boykin hopes to continue the public projects that Dr. Ed Madden has initiated during his time as Poet Laureate. Still, she also hopes to develop a community-wide poetry event that would include readings and participation by K-12 students. She is also keenly interested in ways that poetry can help people and hopes to build collaborations with artists and organizations to develop projects that engage the residents of the Columbia area.

One Columbia provides financial support for the Poet Laureate to conduct activities that support the organization’s mission to promote and strengthen the arts in Columbia.

“Poets help stimulate our imagination and encourage us to think about the little things that we do every day in bigger and colorful ways,” shared Margie Reese, Interim Director of One Columbia for Arts and Culture. “Congratulations and thanks to Ms. Boykin for being selected to serve as the Poet Laureate for Columbia. Her selection affirms that the gifted artists in Columbia continue to enrich our everyday lives in so many meaningful ways.”

Boykin takes the role from Dr. Ed Madden, the city’s first Poet Laureate who served two terms in the position. His projects focused on community-centered activities that helped increase awareness and accessibility around the literary arts, particularly poetry, with the mission of using literary art as a public art.

“Being the city laureate for the past eight years has been such a privilege and an honor,” says Madden. “It is humbling to serve as another voice for the city, but also such a joy to promote so many other writers and voices, all the ways we can define who we are and who we hope to be as a city. I look forward to seeing what the next laureate does with the role, to hearing their work, and to discovering what new voices they elevate.”

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