Poet Laureate

In 2020, the City of Rockford, in partnership with the Rockford Public Library and the Rockford Area Arts Council, established a two-year, honorary position of Poet Laureate. 

A Poet Laureate elevates a community’s cultural arts presence and inspires literacy and lifelong learning and is uniquely positioned to speak to and about the community which he or she represents.  A poet laureate speaks of moments of celebration and moments of mourning and can tell the story of a community’s journey, it its own voice.

Poet Laureate 2021-2022: Christine Swanberg

Rockford native, Christine Swanberg has an accomplished portfolio of publications and community engagement both within the Rockford Area and throughout the State of Illinois as an active poet, editor, educator, and columnist for over fifty years. She is the recipient of accolades, awards, and scholarships across the United States, including Midwest Poetry Review: (first prize), a merit scholarship to the Vermont Writers Program, and receipt of the Carl Sandburg fellowship. Christine has over 500 published works in 75 nationally recognized journals including: Spoon River Quarterly, American Aesthetic, Chiron, Avocet and others and has published several books through independent Chicago-based publishers. She has served on juries and committees for competitions and publications across the United States and has an extensive history of working with organizations in Rockford including: Rockford Writers’ Guild, Womanspace, Natural Land Institute, Severson Dells, Rockford Public Library, Midway Village, and others.

During her tenure, Christine will explore the theme, “Uplifting Rockford through Poetic Collaboration.”

Christine Contact Information:  [email protected]

Fall ArtScene Poetry Prelude

The Rockford Area Arts Council, in partnership with the City of Rockford, Rockford Public Library, and City of Rockford Poet Laureate, presents the first biannual ArtScene Poetry Prelude! Join us in celebrating the art form of poetry on Friday, October 1st, 2021, 4 p.m. at Rockford’s City Hall, 425 E. State Street.

The Poetry Prelude will be a short program featuring City of Rockford Poet Laureate, Christine Swanberg, and eight local poets. During the months of August and September, poets from the Rockford Region were asked to submit poems, with the theme of art, for the first biannual Poetry Prelude.

Poetry Prelude requirements:

1.   Poems must be about ART—a reflection on a local mural or sculpture was strongly encouraged

2.   Length: 1000 words or less

3.   All poems must be original

4.   All poets, ages 16+

5.   Poets must be available + willing to read their poem out loud at the event;

poems are not required to be memorized

6.   Poems containing profanity, rage, hate, or sexually explicit material will not be


7.   A Poetry Review Panel, made up of our City Laureate and versed community members, selected works according to the criteria listed

Join us for Poetry Prelude, October 1, at City Hall!

Highlights from Rockford Poet Laureate

It has been a pleasure and honor to serve as Rockford’s first official Poet Laureate. In keeping with the expectations of the application and with my own theme, “Uplifting Rockford Through Poetic Collaboration,” here are some brief highlights of what has been accomplished:

  • Served in a ceremonial role for community events by creating poems of dedication for various organizations, fundraisers, and events such as Golden Apple Awards, Rockford Area Arts Council’s Poetry Out Loud and Rockford Area Arts Awards, Womanspace programs and the Women’s Centennial Suffrage Sculpture installation, and Music Academy fundraiser.
  • Wrote several poems celebrating or reflecting on community and world events, holidays, and special months, shared on official Poet Laureate Facebook.
  • Co-hosted poetry salons online with Rockford Public Library
  • Gave radio readings and interviews
  • Gave poetry readings and talks for Rockford University, Natural Land Institute, and others
  • Developed official social media posts including holiday poems as well as special months such as Black History Month, Women’s History Month, and National Poetry Month
  • Mentored individual writers, filmed for Black History Month at RAVCB
  • Participated in the Arts Council’s Poetry Out Loud annual program
  • Held ‘Hike and Writes’ for 815-Outside
  • Interviewed and explored what other local and state poet laureates do, how they approach their communities, and how they spend their time
  • Outreach to schools to develop post-Covid school visits
  • Volunteered for various nonprofits and charitable events

I thank you for this privilege and look forward to live readings, school visits, and continuing in the ceremonial role, uplifting Rockford.

Poet Laureate Requirements

Poet Laureate requirements are the following: poet must be a resident of the City of Rockford area for no less than one year. Poet must be 18 years of age. Poet must have demonstrated previous commitment to poetry and have significant publication history. The Poet Laureate Committee is established with representatives from the Arts Council, City of Rockford, Rockford Public Library, Rockford University, and members of the city’s arts and literary community.  Nominations are published in the spring of the second year of the each poet laureate’s tenure on the Rockford Public Library page (www.rockfordpubliclibrary.org)

Poet Laureate Selection Committee 2020

  • Lynn Stainbrook, Rockford Public Library
  • Mary McNamara Bernsten, Rockford Area Arts Council
  • Elías Soria, Rockford Housing Authority and Poet
  • William Gahan, Rockford University
  • Anthony Turner, United Way Strong House
  • Susan Porterfield, Poet Advisor at large
  • Theresa Gilbert, Rock Valley College
  • Emily Klonicki, Rockford Public Library and Rockford Area Arts Council

Photo Gallery from the Poet Laureate Announcement Event

To view the Youth Poet Laureate Page, click here.