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

Trapeta B. Mayson Named 2020-2021 Poet Laureate of the City of Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA, December 12, 2019—The Free Library of Philadelphia is pleased to announce the 2020–2021 Philadelphia Poet Laureate: Trapeta B. Mayson, a teaching artist born in Liberia, whose work sheds light on and honors the immigrant experience and amplifies the stories of everyday people. Mayson was selected from a competitive pool of applicants by the Poet Laureate Governing Committee and will serve in the role for two years. She will succeed Raquel Salas Rivera, who has served as Poet Laureate since 2018.

“I am honored and excited to begin this journey as the city’s next Poet Laureate,” Mayson said. “I’m looking forward to launching writing projects and engaging people in creative expression throughout our beautiful and complex city of Philadelphia. I have big shoes to fill, and I’m proud to be part of this amazing tradition.”

Mayson is the recipient of a Pew Fellowship in Literature, a Leeway Transformation Award, a Leeway Art and Change Grant, and Pennsylvania Council on the Arts grants. Her work has also been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She is a Cave Canem and Callaloo Fellow and an Aspen Words Emerging Writer’s Fellow with the Aspen Institute. She is the author of She Was Once Herself and a chapbook, Mocha Melodies. Mayson has also released two music and poetry projects, SCAT and This Is How We Get Through, in collaboration with internationally acclaimed jazz guitarist Monnette Sudler. Her other publications include submissions in The American Poetry ReviewEpiphany Literary Journal, Aesthetica Magazine, and Margie: The American Journal of Poetry, among others. She grew up in North Philadelphia and Germantown.

“Trapeta B. Mayson has long been a beloved artist and educator in Philadelphia, and we are honored by her desire to serve as Poet Laureate. Her lovingly crafted poems have fed, held, and awakened many of us already. Trapeta’s commitment to this city and its people is brilliantly evident in her work, art, and life. We have much to look forward to with this new laureate’s voice and vision,” said Yolanda Wisher, former Philadelphia Poet Laureate and Co-Chair of the Poet Laureate Governing Committee.

The City of Philadelphia’s Poet Laureate program moved under the auspices of the Free Library in the fall of 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 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 program has lifted Philadelphia to the national stage for its thriving poetry community,” said Beth Feldman Brandt, Co-Chair of the Poet Laureate Governing Committee. “In selecting this year’s Poet Laureate, we were reminded of the strength and diversity of Philadelphia’s poetic voices. Each new Poet Laureate adds to the stellar lineage we have developed through this program.”

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, 2018–19 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: The Philadelphia Poetry Slam.

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


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