New poet laureate is Dallas ISD alum

Dallas ISD is home to many scholars, athletes, artists, business and community leaders – and renowned writers. 

The City of Dallas recently announced its new poet laureate – Mag Gabbert, a 2007 graduate from Booker T. Washington High School for the Visual and Performing Arts.

Gabbert, who is only the second poet laureate for the city, will present her original poems in places like schools, libraries, and city and community events. She will develop outreach initiatives to engage and inspire the community to read, write, perform and appreciate the written and spoken word.

When she was a student at Booker T., Gabbert attended school in what was the original building, but spent her last years of high school in the Nolan Estes Plaza, while the new building was under construction. Students moved back to the Arts District location in 2008, after Gabbert had graduated.

Regardless of the building where she attended school, she said the spirit of Booker T. is completely the people, and that regardless of where they were, it was the same wonderful, incredible experience.

“I remember my first day at Booker T. to this moment — we had a big pep rally in one of the buildings next door, and I just remember that  I was absolutely on fire from the energy in that room and hearing people talk and seeing performances — and I was like wow, I’m a part of something really cool,” Gabbert said. 

Gabbert was in the vocal performance program at Booker T. She initially started her college career as a vocal performance major, but when she discovered a  passion for contemporary poetry, she changed her major. 

Gabbert has a Master of Fine Arts from University of California Riverside, a doctorate degree in English from Texas Tech University, and a Bachelor of Arts in English from Trinity University, where she graduated Magna Cum Laude, with Honors in English.

Gabbert began her two-year term as the city’s top wordsmith in the spring, and already hit the ground running.

In fact, she has office hours at the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library, where people can get feedback from her about their poems, as well as receive tips such as the ins and outs of the publishing world. 

For the summer, her office hours are every Wednesday, Noon to 2 p.m. The office hours are meant to be time to serve as a resource for the community, especially for those who don’t have institutional support or don’t have the ability or resources to hire someone to teach them or go to graduate school, said Gabbert.

According to Gabbert, plans are in the works for various library branches to have her teach generative workshops on a specific topic or geared toward a specific age group. For example, she already has a poetry workshop scheduled where she will be talking about poems on the topic of grief and how we can write about grief.

Bringing poetry to be part of public art also is something Gabbert hopes to  accomplish in her tenure. She hopes this will be  another way people can be exposed to poetry as they’re going about their daily lives. 

“The thing I’m looking forward to the most is the opportunity to share poems in spaces where you just wouldn’t normally encounter poetry, and to really expose folks to poetry who didn’t necessarily think to go looking for it,” Gabbert said.

So as much as she loves getting to meet up with fellow poets, Gabbert said it’s more exciting for her to go into spaces where poetry might not be a part of their daily  lives–but those present are still going to have some engagement with it. 

Gabbert currently teaches at Southern Methodist University in the Department of Human-Centered Interdisciplinary Studies, with programs centered on master and doctoral degrees in liberal studies. 

She is the author of a full-length book of poetry and the winner of the 2021 Charles B. Wheeler Prize in Poetry. Gabbertis also the recipient of the Pushcart Prize, a Discovery Award from the Unterberg Poetry Center and has fellowships from the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop, Idyllwild Arts and Poetry at Round Top. Her work has been published in The American Poetry Review, The Paris Review Daily and more than 50 other magazines and journals.

Gabbert wants to motivate aspiring poets. 

“I was not a good poet when I first started. I just happened to be obsessed enough to really dedicate myself to getting better and reading more, “ she said. “Being a poet is what I wanted more than anything and if you have that drive, if you have what I call that obsession – a healthy obsession, obviously – you can get there.”

For inquiries relating to Gabbert’s service as Dallas the Poet Laureate, contact

To request Gabbert to attend, speak, or teach at your event, fill out this form

You may also like