We started the Poet Laureate program in 2011 to foster a deeper understanding and appreciation of poetry in Fort Collins. Each year we accept nominations from the public, and a panel of local poets and writers choose the top candidates which are then put to a public vote. The Poet Laureate hosts free monthly workshops, readings, and other community events. To be eligible, poets must live in Fort Collins, and be willing to serve the community in the name of poetry. Past poet laureates have held readings, published poems, visited schools, and led workshops. The current poet will serve from July 2020 – July 2022, and will be involved in the selection of the next poet laureate. The current poet received a $250 honorarium supported by the Jason Sheppard Greer and Lucy Kim Greer Foundation for the Arts.

2020-2022 Poet Laureate

Our current Poet Laureate is Autumn Bernhardt. Autumn Bernhardt teaches indigenous culture and social and environmental justice courses at CSU. Autumn’s poetry, photography, and short stories have appeared in three books so far, including Grazing the Fire, Bawaajigan, and Blood, Water, Wind, & Stone. The Tulane Journal of Law & Sexuality, Prism International, Yellow Medicine Review, The Moon Magazine, Red Rising Magazine, as well as a host of other notable publications have featured her work. Autumn’s current projects include a book collection of new and previously published poems, as well as a chapter on native water justice that is forthcoming from UC Press in the book Vision & Place.

In addition to academic and literary work, Autumn ran a crossbreed Long- horn cattle operation for 8 years and served as a Tribal Attorney for the White Mountain Apache Tribe. She was involved in sacred land and water litigation on behalf of Colorado River Basin tribes in the well-known San Francisco Peaks case. As a Colorado Assistant Attorney General, she was lead counsel in U.S. Supreme Court litigation relating to a water compact dispute between three states and has been engaged in a number of U.S. Supreme Court, federal court, and Colorado Supreme Court cases over the course of her career. Autumn Bernhardt is a Colorado native and a non-citizen, mixed race Lakota.

Goal as Poet LaureateFort Collins is a vibrant and changing community on the brink of a new unknown. In addition to its ability to comfort and inspire, poetry has always played an essential role in narrating the stories of the underrepresented, as well as the misrepresented. As Poet Laureate of Fort Collins, I would highlight poetry’s unique ability to build community, as well as to serve as a profound instrument of social and environmental justice.

Previous Poets Laureate