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CAP was founded in 1990 to act as an advocate for the arts, serve the public by providing services and resources for county artists and arts organizations, and encourage collaboration among arts, education, business, civic and government organizations.Learn more

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Tompkins County Poet Laureate

Tish Pearlman is the Tompkins County Poet Laureate for 2013 and 2014.

Since its establishment, the selection and announcement of the Tompkins County Poet Laureate has been a process administered by the Community Arts Partnership (CAP), which solicits nominations and organizes the selection panel that considers the appointment.

A panel consisting of members of the community, the county legislature, and past Poets Laureate review a stack of very qualified and impressive nominees.

"We are fortunate in Tompkins County to have an abundance of talent when it comes to our poets laureate, with each bringing their own style, interests, and inspiration," Martha Robertson (Chair of the Tompkins County legislature) said. "We're really looking forward to Tish Pearlman's tenure as our 2013 Poet Laureate."

A writer, broadcast journalist, and community and political activist, Pearlman has lived in Ithaca since 1999. She is well-known as host of the award-winning public radio interview show "Out of Bounds" and, as part of her past local work as a broadcast journalist, hosted "The Amnesty International Human Rights Journal" on Ithaca's Channel 13.

Pearlman's artistic experience as a poet goes back to the 1970s, when she gave many readings at political and literary events on the central California coast, with her work appearing in several literary journals and local magazines. Her current work has appeared in The Healing Muse (2010, 2011, 2012), The Ithaca Times, The Syracuse Post Standard Healthy CNY Magazine, and Conversations Across Borders. Two of her poems were accepted for an upcoming anthology, The Art of Medicine in Metaphors, due out this year. Pearlman's first collection, a chapbook of poetry retelling her near-death heart surgery experience, is entitled "The Fix Is In," published by Finishing Line press in January 2012.

According to Brett Bossard, former executive director of CAP, the nomination of Tish Pearlman quickly rose to the top. "Tish's extensive body of work as a poet truly impressed the panel," Bossard notes, "and her ongoing work in the community as an advocate for social justice convinced us that her unique voice will be a perfect fit for the position of Poet Laureate."

Program Overview



The title of "Poet Laureate" is a time-honored tradition. In 1668, England officially established the post as a royal office. In the 19th century some local Poets Laureate were recognized in their communities. In 1937 the US created the position as a national one.

The position of Tompkins County Poet Laureate was established by the Tompkins County Legislature in 2001 to honor local outstanding poets, integrate poetry into the community, enrich the education of our young people, and enhance the County's position as a cultural center. Given our literary pedigree, it's no surprise that Tompkins was one of the first in the nation to have such an official post.

Since its establishment, the selection and announcement of the Tompkins County Poet Laureate has been a process administered by the Community Arts Partnership. CAP solicits nominations and organizes the selection panel for appointment to the post.

Appointments will be for one-year terms, but precedent allows for one additional consecutive one-year term, based on the availability of the poet. The honorary position is without salary, but programmatic stipends may be available depending on grant funding.


The Poet Laureate's named duties over the period of his/her appointment include:

  1. Presentations of his/her poetry at a Tompkins County Legislature meeting.
  2. Presentations at other appropriate public events, at least once each quarter of his/her term.
  3. Advocacy of poetry in the community, including, but not limited to, bringing poetry to school children, projects or programs that promote the appreciation of poetry, or poetry workshops with underserved populations in the community.


Nominations may come from individuals or organizations within or outside of Tompkins County. Poets may self-nominate. Each nomination must contain:

  1. Cover letter from the nominator identifying the nominator and/or the nominating organization with the recommendations of the nominee.
  2. Name and short biography of the poet nominated with contact info and a statement of interest by the poet (if not self-nominating).
  3. Three to six poems by the poet.

Review Criteria

Nominees for the Tompkins County Poet Laureate must:

  1. Be a resident of Tompkins County for at least two years.
  2. Be a published author with a body of high quality work.
  3. Be comfortable in the performance of poetry for the public.
  4. Be interested in presenting a sense of the community through poetry.
  5. Be willing to advocate and educate people about poetry.

Review Process

All nominees for the Tompkins County Poet Laureate will be reviewed by a selection panel consisting of past poets laureate, community members, CAP staff, and a representative from the Tompkins County Legislature.

Using the criteria listed above, the panel will make a recommendation for official approval by the Tompkins County Legislature.

Nomination Deadline

Nominations must be submitted by November 30, 2014 to the CAP office. Announcement of the selection will be made in December 2014. The selected poet typically reads at a January meeting of the Tompkins County Legislature, when his/her title is officially declared.

CAP welcomes all questions regarding this program and application. For more information on this program, please call 273-5072 or e-mail program director, Robin Schwartz at