People’s Poetry Festival Highlights Include English Faculty Tom Murphy as Corpus Christi Poet Laureate

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – As a founding member of the People’s Poetry Festival, Thomas Murphy, Professional Assistant Professor in the Department of English at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, has helped the event grow from six panels of poetry with two open mics over two days to nine panels over the course of three days in the short span of six years. This year, Murphy will serve as Poet Laureate of Corpus Christi for 2021-2022, replacing poet Juan Manual Pérez, who served as the 2019-2020 Poet Laureate. 

This year’s festival, which takes place Feb. 25-27, will be held entirely online. To find the panel Zoom links and to see the full schedule of events, go to

Pérez, as well as Mayor Paulette Guajardo, will announce Murphy’s laureate distinction in a virtual reading on the first day of the festival. Murphy plans to read three poems at the event: one from his first full collection “American History,” one from his most recent collection “Pearl,” and a poem titled “Living, Teaching, Near the Water,” about being in Corpus Christi during COVID-19.

Murphy said this year’s festival features around 40 poets as well as individuals who sign up for the virtual Open Mic event.

“We have always been a strong group of members from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, the community, and Del Mar College,” said Murphy, “but this year, since we’re virtual, we have poets from, Ohio, Michigan, California, New York, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and from across Texas as well as New Jersey via Colombia.”

Del Mar College Reference Librarian Alan Berecka first approached Murphy with the idea of creating a poetry festival in Corpus Christi in 2015, and the first celebration was held the following year.

Along with University professors, both active and retired, Island University English graduate student Zoe Ramos and English major Dylan Lopez also serve on the festival’s committee. Ramos is an interdisciplinary researcher and senior editor of the “Windward Review.” Lopez, a senior at A&M-Corpus Christi, is a recipient of the second Robb Jackson Award. 

“Robb Jackson was the original Poet Laureate, but without being honored as such,” Murphy said. “Robb and his wife, Vanessa Furse Jackson, ran the Creative Writing program at the Island University before his untimely death in February 2013. We have always felt that we needed to grow the community of poets and that growth needs to be started at a young age, so we started the Robb Jackson Award in 2017.”

Ten high school recipients receive gift cards, poetry books from committee members, and will read an original work during the Robb Jackson Award panel.

New to the festival this year is a Local Poets Roundtable, which will be hosted on the last day of the festival. Murphy said the idea behind the roundtable is to promote awareness of the vibrant poetry community in the Coastal Bend.

“We are a strong poetry community, and we want the Coastal Bend to know we are here. We are very inclusive – from slam poets to people of the LGBTQ+ community, to schoolteachers and people of many colors and ideas who write magnificently.”