I’ll let constellations form and fall off this tongue
Mold planets out of clay with clay with these hands,
Create a whole universe behind these eyes
I’ll spread myself across the sky in thick, bright strokes, and leave a trail of light behind me,
Don’t you know I’m a shooting star?
– Mia Concepcion, 2019-2020 Philadelphia Youth Poet Laureate
We here at the Free Library of Philadelphia are thrilled to announce that Mia Concepcion has been named the 2019-2020 Philadelphia Youth Poet Laureate! The formal announcement was made at a press conference with Mayor Jim Kenney and Siobhan Reardon, President and Director of the Free Library, this morning at 10:30 a.m. on September 4 at Parkway Central Library.
Mia is a senior at the Science Leadership Academy. She was born in raised in South Philadelphia and has been an active part of the city’s youth poetry slam scene for several years. During her one-year tenure as Youth Poet Laureate, Mia will be an ambassador for poetry around the city through readings and workshops. The laureateship is also a civic role, and through her Youth Poet Laureate project Mia will assemble an anthology of poetry written by Philadelphia’s young people.
As Youth Poet Laureate, Mia will receive an educational scholarship and work closely with the 2018-2020 Philadelphia Poet Laureate Raquel Salas Rivera. Of Mia’s work, Raquel writes: "Mia Concepcion’s work delves fearlessly into the painful complexities of existing in more than one world. Her poetry stood out for its willingness to be both confrontational and tender. She has a nuanced understanding of how different parts of Philadelphia come together and deftly navigates race, gender, and sexuality. The projects she has in mind for the city are insightful and I am confident she will bring much to the city during her term."
Mia joins a line of exceptionally talented writers who have served as Philadelphia Youth Poet Laureate. The 2018-19 Youth Poet Laureate, Wes Matthews, organized a series of workshops for young writers led by some of Philadelphia’s most well-known poets. Husnaa Hashim, who was the 2017-2018 Youth Poet Laureate, published her first chapbook, Honey Sequence, during her laureate year and was recently featured in the Kenyon Review Online. The 2016-2017 laureate, Otter Jung-Allen, edited an anthology of young poets from along the East Coast.
Poetry lovers in Philadelphia have plenty to love this fall. Be sure to catch Mia read as a featured performer at the Olney Youth Arts Festival on Saturday, October 5 at 500 West Chew Avenue.
On Saturday, September 14 at Parkway Central Library, Raquel Salas Rivera and Boston Poet Laureate Porsha Olayiwola will co-host Home on Our Back: A Laureate’s Reading on the Poetics of Diaspora, a special after-hours event exploring through poetry, music, and food how migrations have shaped both Boston and Philadelphia. The Free Library’s Monday Poets Reading Series continues on September 9 at 6:30 p.m. with a reading by Airea D. Matthews and Brian Teare. Across the first two weeks of November, the Free Library and First Person Arts will co-host five poetry readings in neighborhood libraries as part of the First Person Arts Festival, featuring poets Jericho Brown, Ladan Osman, Taylor Mali, Geffrey Davis, and Tina Chang. last but not least, U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo will read at Parkway Central Library on Wednesday, November 13.
The Free Library is also now accepting applications for the 2020-2021 Philadelphia Poet Laureate, succeeding Raquel Salas Rivera, whose term ends in December. The new Poet Laureate will represent Philadelphia and champion the art of poetry in our city. The two-year laureateship comes with a stipend of $5,000 and opportunities to mentor the Youth Poet Laureate and lead a civic project. Applications are due by October 18.
The Free Library has managed the Philadelphia Poet Laureate program since 2017. The program is housed in the Free Library’s Division of Cultural and Civic Engagement and guided by a governing committee comprised of poets, educators, and arts-organization professionals from around the city. Both the Poet Laureate and Youth Poet Laureate are civic positions that recognize exceptional poets who also demonstrate commitments to the power of poetry to engage and inspire people throughout Philadelphia’s neighborhoods. For more information about the Philadelphia Poet Laureate program, please visit www.freelibrary.org/poetlaureate.