Aurora tabs Dominique Sample to become city’s new poet laureate

Sample, who prefers to go by her artistic name Assetou Xango, beat out five other Aurora poets vying to become the city’s official lyrical envoy

AURORA | More than three years after Aurora started its novel poet laureate program, the city has officially named its second-ever ambassador of verse.

Aurora City Council Monday night unanimously approved Dominique Sample to serve as the city’s official poet laureate for a two-year term starting next month.
The position comes with a $500 per quarter stipend, a stipulation that was approved by council in August 2015.

An Aurora native, Sample first became interested in poetry when she was a sophomore at Overland High School and a trio of local poets — Bianca Mikahn, Panama Soweto and Ken Arkind — performed at a school event.

“That was what got me hooked on it,” Sample said.

She then spent the remainder of high school writing and studying poetry, mostly using YouTube videos. It wasn’t until she was about 18 years old that her mother allowed her to attend poetry events in Downtown Denver and she began performing. That led her to participate on a youth poetry SLAM team, called Minor Disturbance, for about two years. The group was featured on an episode of the HBO special “Brave New Voices,” while Sample was a competing member.

Sample currently works as a program coordinator for the Denver-based nonprofit organization Creative Strategies for Change, which offers a slew of art classes for K-12 students across the metro area.

Sample, who prefers to go by her artistic name Assetou Xango, beat out five other Aurora poets vying to become the city’s official lyrical envoy. Each candidate responded to questionnaires and performed two poems for two separate panels made up of various city staffers, including Ward V City Councilman Bob Roth, Court Administrator Zelda DeBoyes and the city’s outgoing Poet Laureate Jovan Mays.

The city library board, which advises the department that oversees the poet laureate program, unanimously recommended Sample be considered for the role.

A friend of Mays’ for the past several years, Sample said he urged her to apply for the position when the application opened up late last year. (She had also applied for the inaugural position when the role was created in 2013.)

Sample said she’s excited to represent her hometown and wants to focus on community-minded events and themes.

“I really want to build community and I want to listen to the people of Aurora in terms of what they need out of programming and out of community building,” she said. “I’m really interested in hearing what people feel like they’re missing.”

Formerly known by a separate stage name, “The Bohemian Dreamer,” Sample said her aliases are all a part of her artistic expression.

“I think it’s mainly just part of my art form,” she said. “Changing my identity in relation to whatever chapter I’m in my life and not allowing that to be stagnant.

“It’s the same reason I don’t have tattoos — if in 10 years a symbol means the same thing to me as when I got it, I’m not growing enough.”