We didn’t think we could love poetry any more than we already do here at the Free Library … but we were wrong. The City of Philadelphia Poet Laureate program—which has flourished in the five years since it was established by the City’s Office of Arts, Culture, and the Creative Economy—has now moved under the auspices of the Library’s new Center for Public Life.
Welcome home, Philly Poet Laureate!
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. Our city’s current Poet Laureate, Yolanda Wisher, has a few months left in her two-year tenure. She has been a champion of both poetry and education—directing and hosting the second annual Poetic Address to the Nation, organizing a beautiful “City of Poetry” evening of poetry and performance at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and creating the free, pop-up Outbound Poetry Festival at 30th Street Station. She has also served as a mentor to the city’s Youth Poet Laureate, who represents the voice of Philadelphia’s young poets.
City and library officials recently announced the next Youth Poet Laureate—Husnaa Hashim, a senior at Mastery Charter School's Shoemaker Campus. This honor comes with a $1,000 educational scholarship. Both the Poet Laureate and Youth Poet Laureate will engage with Philadelphia citizens through readings, events, and a special project of their choosing.
The application process for the city’s NEXT Poet Laureate application is now open! Poets who are residents of Philadelphia, and who are able to demonstrate both a significant body of work and a record of commitment to community service, are eligible to apply. Applications are due October 13; the selection will be announced in December, and the new Poet Laureate will take the position on January 1, 2018. The Poet Laureate will be chosen by the Poet Laureate Governing Committee, which is comprised of poets, educators, and arts-organization professionals.
The Free Library has had a longstanding commitment to celebrating poetry, most notably through its Monday Poets Reading Series, which has welcomed budding poets to the Library for more than 20 years. In addition, Philadelphia’s first Poet Laureate—poet, activist, and scholar Sonia Sanchez—sits on the Library’s Board of Trustees.
For more information on the Poet Laureate program, visit freelibrary.org/poetlaureate.