Madison Mayor Paul Soglin has announced that Oscar Mireles has agreed to serve as the next Poet Laureate for the City of Madison. Mireles will hold the volunteer position from January 18, 2016 until January 15, 2018. Mireles will be the city’s first Latino Poet Laureate.

“It’s such an honor to be included with the names of all the great Poet Laureates that came before me here in Madison including John Tuschen, Andrea Musher, Fabu, Wendy Vardaman, and Sarah Busse,” Mireles told Madison365. “I hope to build on their legacies. I think each of them brought a certain energy and their own style to the position. I hope that I can build upon their efforts and make poetry a daily part of what we do in our lives.”

A Poet Laureate is a poet officially appointed by a government or conferring institution, who is often expected to compose poems for special events and occasions and to be an ambassador for poetry in the city.

“Having worked with Oscar in many ways over the past number of years, I am truly excited to welcome him as Madison’s fifth Poet Laureate. I have seen and heard first-hand how he encourages people in our community to share their stories, to add their voices to the conversation. He empowers and makes possible conversations that otherwise might not happen,” said Sarah Busse, another of Madison’s poet Laureates, in a press release. “His work as teacher, as editor, and as poet all prepare him well for the opportunities that come with the Laureate position. Madison is a vibrant, multilingual community and Mr. Mireles is a superb choice for City Laureate.”

Mireles is a widely published and recognized poet and the executive director/principal of Omega School, an alternative school. He is a member of Minds Eye Radio collective, which produces a radio show of spoken word poetry.

“I’ve been writing poetry for 30 years now,” Mireles said. “It’s quite an honor for me to be Poet Laureate.”

Mireles is the editor of three anthologies I didn’t know there were Latinos in Wisconsin: 20 Hispanic Poets (Focus Communications,1989), I didn’t know there were Latinos in Wisconsin: 30 Hispanic Writers (Focus Communications,1999) and most recently I Didn’t Know There Were Latinos In Wisconsin, Volume III. He is also the author of Second Generation (Focus Communications,1985).

In support of his nomination, Mark Fraire, director of Cultural Affairs for Dane County said, “Oscar Mireles has been writing poetry for over 30 years and has published, among many publications, 3 editions of his book I Didn’t Know There Were Latinos in Wisconsin. His writings often offer a glimpse into the life of an American born Latino, youth and family, education, history and current events. I have had the pleasure of knowing and working with Oscar for over 25 years through many different community activities in which his priorities have always been how can we do better, how can we help more people, and how can we give our communities greater access to the arts. Oscar is certainly well deserving of this award because his poetry speaks to the heart of what drives our community: achieving equity, inclusion, and justice in an often chaotic world.”

On Sunday, January 31, 2016, 2-4 p.m., there will be a reception and poetry reading celebrating the new Poet Laureate at Centro Hispano, 810 West Badger Road. Poets Laureate Emeriti will read, as will other notable area poets. The reception is free and open to the public. All are welcome to come and share in honoring Oscar Mireles as Madison’s new Poet Laureate.