For Release: Immediately
Department of External Affairs
Free Library of Philadelphia
1901 Vine Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103-1189
(215) 567-7710
FAX (215) 567-7850
Contact: Communications and Development
For Release: Immediately
Contact: Communications and Development





PHILADELPHIA, August 27, 2018—The Free Library of Philadelphia is pleased to announce the 2018–2019 Philadelphia Youth Poet Laureate: Wes Matthews, a rising senior at Science Leadership Academy. He was selected from a competitive pool of applicants by the Poet Laureate Governing Committee, and will succeed Husnaa Hashim, who served as the 2017–2018 Youth Poet Laureate. Matthews will make his inaugural appearance as Youth Poet Laureate at a special reading on Tuesday, August 28 at 6:00 p.m. in the lobby of the Parkway Central Library at 1901 Vine Street.


Matthews was born in Detroit and began writing poetry at age 10. He is a two-time Brave New Voices competitor, a 2016 TEDx speaker, and winner of the 2018 Philly Slam League All-Star Poetry Slam. His work can be found in Detroit Free Press, Eunoia Review, Dreginald Magazine, and more. The role of Youth Poet Laureate provides a much-deserved showcase for Matthews’ work, a platform for promoting poetry as a means of storytelling and social change, and advances literacy and arts education through community events and visits to schools and libraries across the city. 


“Being selected as the Youth Poet Laureate of Philadelphia is an absolute honor and I feel both elated and grateful to have been given this chance to contribute to the city, “ said Matthews. “Through the position, I hope to help encourage, consolidate, and amplify the voices of young people all throughout the city of Philadelphia.”


“The Youth Poet Laureate position shines a spotlight on Philadelphia’s thriving youth poetry scene and recognizes its place in the our cultural ecosystem, “ explained Beth Feldman Brandt, Executive Director of the Stockton Rush Bartol Foundation and co-chair of the Poet Laureate Governing Committee. “Each Youth Poet Laureate has brought a distinct perspective and voice that has raised our awareness of all that our young people have to share.”


Poet Laureate Governing Committee co-chair and Philadelphia Poet Laureate emerita Yolanda Wisher noted: "Wes is a formidable wordsmith with a burgeoning passion for the civic possibilities of poetry. I can't wait to see how this gifted poet will share his love of language with the city." 


The City of Philadelphia’s Poet Laureate program moved to the Free Library’s Center for Public Life in fall 2017. The Poet Laureate is a civic position that recognizes an exceptional poet who also demonstrates a commitment to the power of poetry to engage and inspire people throughout Philadelphia’s neighborhoods. In addition to the Poet Laureate position, the program also supports a new Youth Poet Laureate each year—an honor that comes with an educational scholarship. The Poet Laureate mentors the Youth Poet Laureate, who represents the voice of Philadelphia’s young poets. Both poets engage with Philadelphia citizens through readings, events, and a special project of their choosing.

The Poet Laureate Governing Committee is comprised of poets, educators, and arts-organization professionals: In addition to co-chairs Brandt and Wisher, committee members include: Raquel Salas Rivera, 2018-2020 Philadelphia Poet Laureate; Frank Sherlock, former Philadelphia Poet Laureate; Al Filreis, Faculty Director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Kelly Writers House; Autumn McClintock, Strategy Coordinator at the Free Library; Andrew Nurkin, Deputy Director for Enrichment and Civic Engagement at the Free Library; Kai Davis, poet, performer, teaching artist, poetry editor for Apiary Magazine, and organizer/artistic director for The Pigeon Presents: The Philadelphia Poetry Slam; Marissa Johnson-Valenzuela, writer and editor at Thread Makes Blanket Press; and Jacob Winterstein, poet, performer, teaching artist, and host of The Pigeon Presents.


Organizations interested in inviting Wes to read should contact For more information, visit


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About the Free Library of Philadelphia

The Free Library of Philadelphia system, with 54 locations and The Rosenbach, advances literacy, guides learning, and inspires curiosity with millions of digital and physical materials; 25,000 yearly programs and workshops; free public computers and extensive Wi-Fi, including neighborhood Hotspots; and rich special collections, including those at the Parkway Central Library and at The Rosenbach. With more than 10 million visits annually—5 million in-person, 5 million online—the Free Library and The Rosenbach are among the most widely used educational and cultural institutions in Philadelphia and boast a worldwide impact.







Department of External Affairs, Free Library of Philadelphia, 1901 Vine Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103-1189
(215) 567-7710, FAX (215) 567-7850