Mayor's Office

Press Release

Mayor Parker Announces Selection of Houston’s First Poet Laureate



April 9, 2013 -- Mayor Annise D. Parker and Houston Public Library (HPL) Director Dr. Rhea Brown Lawson today announced that award-winning author and poet Gwendolyn Zepeda has been selected as Houston’s first Poet Laureate. Zepeda will represent the city by creating excitement about poetry through outreach, programs, teaching, and written work. She will receive an annual honorarium of $5,000 through the City’s Initiative Grant Program of the Houston Arts Alliance and serve a term of two years, April 2013 through April 2015.


Zepeda is a Houston-based author who is best-known for her works of fiction, including “Growing Up Tamales,” “Houston, We Have a Problema,” “Lone Star Legend,” and “Better with You Here.” However, Zepeda is also an accomplished poet. She has several chapbooks and published poems to her name, with a book of poetry due out in 2014: “It’s Zepeda Not Zapata.”


As Poet Laureate, Zepeda is committed to developing a community outreach project for Houston’s many diverse neighborhoods, as well as to local businesses. She will conduct workshops in which she will share the art and love of poetry and participate in community based poetry programs. Zepeda will also provide content to the Houston Poet Laureate Program web page and publish poetry to the Website by the community members attending her workshops.


“Selecting Houston’s first Poet Laureate was difficult due to the talent among the nominees,” said Mayor Parker. “We were searching for a people’s poet rather than a poet’s poet – someone who can excite people about poetry. I believe we have found just that in Gwendolyn Zepeda and her approach.”


“We are delighted about the selection of our city’s first poet laureate, Gwendolyn Zepeda, and we look forward to working with her over the next two years,” said Dr. Lawson. “Gwen’s poetry is well-crafted, engaging, and reflects her knowledge of Houston. We are excited about the energy she brings to this position and her plans to make poetry a community engagement activity, involving Houstonians from all walks of life.”


“It’s an incredible honor to be chosen as Houston’s first poet laureate," said Zepeda. "I’m excited about sharing poetry with our diverse communities and, more importantly, hearing what my fellow Houstonians will express through their own writing.”


The Houston Poet Laureate Selection Committee assisted in the nomination and selection process: Robin Reagler, Executive Director of Writers in the Schools (WITS), Janet Lowery, Professor and Cullen Chair of English and Creative Writing in the University of St. Thomas Department of English, Rich Levy, Executive Director of Inprint, Fran Sanders, Founder of Public Poetry, Joseph Campana, Assistant Professor in the Rice University Department of English, Chitra Divakaruni, Professor in the University of Houston Department of English, Shannon Buggs, Director of Communication in the University of Houston College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences, Diem Jones, Director of Grants at the Houston Arts Alliance, Elizabeth Brown Guillory, Distinguished Professor of Theatre and Associate Provost/Associate Vice President for Academic and Faculty Affairs at Texas Southern University. Jennifer Schwartz, Program Manager of the Houston Public Library, and Minnette Boesel, Mayor’s Assistant for Cultural Affairs of the City of Houston, are the non-voting members of the Committee.


The HPLP is a partnership between the City of Houston, HPL, Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs, and Houston Arts Alliance (HAA).


About the Houston Public Library
The Houston Public Library (HPL) operates 35 neighborhood libraries, three HPL Express Libraries, a Central Library, the Houston Metropolitan Research Center, the Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research, The African American Library at the Gregory School, and the Parent Resource Library located in the Children’s Museum of Houston. Serving more than 4 million customers per year, HPL is committed to excellent customer service and equitable access to information and programs by providing library customers with free use of a diverse collection of printed materials and electronic resources, Internet, laptop and computer use, and a variety of database and reference resources with live assistance online 24/7.


For further information, visit the Houston Public Library at or call 832.393.1313.