While Gov. Gregoire and her Olympians privately natter amongst themselves to select Washingtons first Poet Laureate, common cits are invited to readings by candidates for the title of Seattles seventh Poet Populist on July 15th and 23rd, at the Seattle Public Library and the Richard Hugo House respectively. While some might prefer to hear the nominees first, voting is already open to Seattle residents (theyll ask for your area code to ensure it) at www.poetpopulist.org/vote.htm. The dueling bards reflect a diversity practically inconceivable on the governments shortlist for the state Laureate, from UW professors (Cody Walker) and Ph.D.s (Shannon Borg) to less conventional competitors like filipina-amerikan Angela Martinez Dy and Chad Goller-Sojourner, author of the chapbook Born One Thousand Years Too Early: Fat, Dark-Skinned, Gay and Adopted by White Folks. Richard Gold, who founded the Pongo Teen Writing Project, is probably more accustomed to grooving with homeless, incarcerated, and hospitalized youth than schmoozing wealthy socialites. And those are just the official nominees; more than a few dark horses are jockeying for the prize, too. Hip-hop prodigies the Blue Scholars sent out a bulletin beseeching their 21,000-odd MySpace friends to write in lyricist Geologic on the Populist ballot. Perhaps the slates biggest surprise is the omission of poetical thoroughbred Sherman Alexie. The prime duty of the Poet Populist, as demonstrated by reigning Poet Jourdan Imani Keith, is interaction with the youth and general Seattle population and the advancement of Art and Democracy. Upholding the tradition of the starving writer, said Poet is meant to accomplish this with a nominal $500 prize.