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Only the young who have a penchant for poetry need apply for this new Suffolk role

Cynthia Shor, executive director of the Walt Whitman

Cynthia Shor, executive director of the Walt Whitman Birthplace Association in Huntington Station, said 44 Suffolk County school districts were sent notification of the Suffolk Teen Poet Laureate position. She is shown at the Whitman birthplace on Monday. Credit: Johnny Milano

"Leaving it to you to prove and define it, Expecting the main things from you."

So says Walt Whitman in the last line of his poem "Poets to Come," and so does Suffolk County as it seeks to name its first Teen Poet Laureate. But time is of the essence. The deadline to be considered is Jan. 17.

"We’re quite excited to present this contest," said Richard Bronson, the current Suffolk County Poet Laureate who was appointed in June.

In June, the Suffolk County Legislature approved a non-funded position for an inaugural two-year term that will begin on June 1. Eligible candidates must be students aged 13-19 years old and reside in Suffolk County. They can enter the contest through sponsorship by their schools.

A poet laureate is a poet officially appointed by a government or conferring institution, typically expected to compose poems for special events and occasions. The county poet laureate two-year term was established in 2002.

While in office, the role of the Teen Poet Laureate will be to create opportunities to promote and bring poetry by and for young residents of Suffolk County into the community as a positive force and encourage others to reach their potential, according to county documents.

Bronson, professor of obstetrics and gynecology and pathology and director of the Reproductive Endocrinology Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Stony Brook University Medical Center, along with past county poet laureates were charged with creating a contest to select the winner.

The group partnered with the nonprofit Walt Whitman Birthplace Association in Huntington Station to get the word out. Cynthia Shor, executive director of the association, said 44 Suffolk County school districts were sent notification of the Suffolk Teen Poet Laureate position.

Each participating junior high schiool and high school in Suffolk County will establish its own selection process and nominate a single individual.

Shor said the association’s mission is to preserve and promote Whitman’s legacy. She said each year the association has its own poetry contest for young people, so it was a natural fit to join with the county on this new program.

Shor cited Whitman’s work "Poets to Come," featured in his signature book "Leaves of Grass," with its call to future poets to carry on the writing legacy as an added connection.

"We promote his legacy by encouraging young poets, and now Suffolk County is encouraging youth poets to write poetry, and so it continues the tradition," Shor said.

Bronson said three attributes will be considered when selecting the winner: the quality of the poetry submitted, evidence of significant youth leadership, and evidence of civic engagement.

Sonnet, sestina, or villanelle, as well as free verse, may be submitted. How the tools of poetic craft — imagery, metaphor, rhyme, rhythm — are employed will also be judged.

"It’s a wonderful opportunity, and I would encourage young poets to make a submission," Bronson said.


Suffolk County schools can nominate one candidate:

Eligibility: Students must live in Suffolk County and be 13-19 years old

Deadline for nominations: Jan. 17

Review full guidelines before submitting:

For further information email

Send nominations via email to

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