Alexandria’s Poet Laureate Leads A Friendly Game of Slam April 26


The City of Alexandria appointed KaNikki Jakarta as the new Poet Laureate. The first African-American to hold the title, she replaced Wendi Kaplan, whose term ended in March 2019.

Jakarta is an award-winning performance poet who has toured the U.S. and United Kingdom. She has been writing for more than 26 years and active in the poetry scene for the last 17 years. She opened for Jill Scott, Raheem DaVaughn, and Lyfe Jennings. She’s written three works of fiction, two poetry collections, and published a poetry CD and a memoir. She also organized and/or hosted a number of open mics, workshops, award ceremonies, and conferences and takes particular interest in spotlighting the voices of women.

Trained in public relations and marketing, Jakarta uses her love of the written word to promote creative writing, reading literature, and poetry literacy. She’s an arts advocate and knows firsthand of poetry’s power to inspire, heal, and builds community. Jakarta dubs her brand of writing “real life fiction.” Though her writing may be based in fiction, it connects with the reality and lived experiences of her audience.

City Council presented her with a proclamation on Tuesday, April 9, recognizing April as National Poetry Month. As one of her first official duties, she will be leading a free poetry slam, A Friendly Game of Slam, at the Durant Arts Center on 1605 Cameron Street, on Friday, April 26 at 7 pm. She will be joined by Kaplan and the winning poets of the 2019 DASHing Words in Motion: Renee Adams, Susan Clarke Behnke, Jillinda Jill Glenn, Devin Reese, Molly Rufus, and Yerusalem Work. They will have their poems displayed inside the DASH buses and Trolleys in April and May.

The Poet Laureate serves a three-year term. Past Poet Laureates include Mary McElveen, Amy Young, Tori Lane Kovarik, Ryan Wojanowski, and most recently, Wendi Kaplan.

Alexandria’s Poet Laureate program was reestablished in 2007. It seeks to promote appreciation of poetry as an art form, encourage creative writing and reading literature, and to promote literacy through poetry.

For more information, contact Cheryl Anne Colton, regional program director, at 703.746.5565 or


About the Office of the Arts

The Office of the Arts promotes the value of arts and culture in Alexandria by nurturing, investing in and celebrating the creative contributions of artists and arts organizations. Through engaging the community, encouraging participation, and facilitating access to the arts, the Office of the Arts works with local artists and arts organizations to build a vibrant community for all of the City’s residents, workers and visitors. Learn more at or follow @alexartsoffice on Instagram and Twitter. Add to the conversation with #artsALX.


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