FREE! Enjoy works read by some of UCF’s finest poets and spoken word artists.

FREE! Celebrate Central Florida’s vibrant poetry and spoken word community with City of Orlando Poet Laureate Shawn Welcome ’17, the city’s inaugural poet laureate Susan Lilley ’75 ’80MA, and poet laureate finalists — and UCF faculty members — Terry Thaxton, Chrissy Kolaya and Martha Brenckle.

Presented by the UCF Department of Writing and Rhetoric and Department of English.

A Celebration of the Orlando Poet Laureate

Immediately following the event, select readers will be available to sign books. Purchase your book in advance at the links below. (Books will not be available at the event.)

Martha Brenckle

Hard Letters and Folded Wings
Street Angel

Chrissy Kolaya

Any Anxious Body
Other Possible Lives
Charmed Particles

Terry Thaxton

Mud Song
The Terrible Wife
Getaway Girl


Shawn Welcome

Shawn Welcome is a content writer and performance poet who has been an Orlando resident since 1993. He is the Poet Laureate for the City of Orlando, which was made official by Mayor Buddy Dyer and City Council members on October 11, 2021. He is the Founder and CEO of Diverse Word, LLC, a creative arts organization under which falls Diverse Word and other creative arts offerings. He has traveled the U.S. speaking and performing, written NBA commercials for the Orlando Magic, done voice overs ads for colleges and universities, and continues to seek opportunities for artists like himself to get paid. Shawn graduated from the University of Central Florida with a Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature and a Master’s Degree in Sociology (Summer ’22).  Shawn’s skill set has been exercised in many area nonprofits and industries that serve the community. The Hope Community Center, Boys & Girls Club, Pg. 15, Professional Opportunities Program for Students (POPS), Oak Ridge High School, Frontline Outreach Community Center, and Polis Institute. Shawn lives with his wife and children in Orlando, enjoys watching documentaries of all sorts, and working out at the gym.

Chrissy Kolaya

Chrissy Kolaya is a poet and fiction writer. She’s the author of two books of poems: Any Anxious Body and Other Possible Lives, and one novel: Charmed Particles. She teaches in the Creative Writing Program at UCF, where she directs the Writers in the Sun Reading Series. You can learn more about her work at

Terry Thaxton

Terry Ann Thaxton is a 5th generation Floridian, a poet, essayist, and teacher. Her most recent book of poetry, Mud Song (Truman State UP, 2017) won the 2017 T.S. Eliot Prize and the 2018 Florida Book Award Silver Medal in Poetry. The Terrible Wife (Salt Publishing, 2013) won the 2014 Florida Book Award Bronze Medal in Poetry. Getaway Girl (Salt Publishing, 2011). She has also published a textbook, Creative Writing in the Community: A Guide (Bloomsbury, 2014). She’s published poetry and essays in numerous literary journals. She is a professor of English at the University of Central Florida where she also directs the graduate programs in English.

Martha Brenckle

Martha Catherine Brenckle is a Professor at the University of Central Florida where she teaches First-year Writing and Rhetorical Theory. She writes poetry and fiction In 2000, she won the Central Florida United Arts Award for Poetry. Her first novel, Street Angel (2006) and was nominated for a Lambda Award and a Triangle Award and was a Finalist for Fence Magazine’s 2007 Best GLBT Novel Award. In 2019, Finishing Line Press published her poetry chapbook, Hard Letters and Folded Wings. Currently, Martha serves as the Treasurer for the GLBTQ+ Museum of Central Florida.

Susan Lilley

Susan Lilley is a Florida native and has served for the last four years as Orlando’s inaugural Poet Laureate. Her poetry and non-fiction have appeared in American Poetry Review, Gulf Coast, Poet Lore, The Southern Review, Drunken Boat, Saw Palm, The Florida Review, Sweet, and other journals. Her two chapbooks are Night Windows and Satellite Beach. She is a past winner of the Rita Dove Poetry Award and has held a State of Florida Individual Arts Fellowship. She has taught at University of Central Florida and Rollins College, and currently teaches literature at Trinity Preparatory School in Winter Park. Her recent full collection, Venus in Retrograde, was published spring of 2019 by Burrow Press.

Glen Samuels headshot

Glen Samuels

CAH Alumni Community Outreach Chair Glen Samuels ’10 will host the event. Glen is an alumnus with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Humanities: Philosophy, Religion, and Pop Culture Track. He is currently a Library Technical Supervisor at the John C. Hitt Library on UCF's main campus. A lover of all expressions of art, he also serves the UCF community as a member of the UCF Academic Affairs Diversity Taskforce, The Association of Southeastern Research Libraries (ASERL) DEI Taskforce, and UCF Libraries Diversity Week Committee.