The Free Library is excited to announce that Trapeta Mayson has been appointed the 2020-2021 Philadelphia Poet Laureate. A committee of poets, educators, and arts-organization professionals selected Trapeta from a wildly impressive group of applicants. Her two-year term begins on January 1, 2020.
As Philadelphia’s fifth Poet Laureate, Trapeta speaks to our city’s moment now, even as she holds history under the poet’s microscope. Deeply informed by her practice as a licensed clinical social worker and her family’s move from Liberia to Philadelphia, her poems celebrate both the immigrant experience and everyday stories of survival. Considered alongside her music as part of a singular artistic expression, Trapeta’s poems use rhythm to nourish and enliven, teach and inquire. Her writing also rings with a love of Philadelphia, especially Germantown and North Philadelphia where she grew up. Throughout her long career as a poet and educator, she has used poetry to promote healing with hundreds of youth and adults in schools, cultural institutions, correctional facilities, shelters, and numerous other community venues across the city.
Trapeta has received a Pew Fellowship, a Leeway Transformation Award, a Leeway Art and Change Grant, and grants from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. She is a Fellow at Cave Canem and Callaloo, and an Aspen Words Emerging Writers Fellow at the Aspen Institute. Her published works include She Was Once Herself and a chapbook, Mocha Melodies, plus poems in The American Poetry Review, Epiphany Literary Journal, Aesthetica Magazine, and Margie: The American Journal of Poetry, among others. Visitors to the recently-renovated Logan Library can also find Trapeta’s verse beautifully painted on the wall of the Community Room as part of a mural by Ife Nii Owoo. Philadelphia is lucky to have a laureate who weaves her life and art so visibly into the fabric of our city.
Housed at the Free Library since 2017, the City of Philadelphia’s Poet Laureate program recognizes exceptional poets who also demonstrate commitments to the power of poetry to engage and inspire people throughout Philadelphia’s neighborhoods. This civic position comes with a stipend and support for a community-based project. The Poet Laureate also has the opportunity to mentor the Youth Poet Laureate, and Trapeta will work closely with current youth laureate Mia Concepcion.
Every new laureate contributes a verse to the powerful record of Philadelphia’s Poet Laureate program. Outgoing laureate Raquel Salas Rivera read at more than 100 venues during their two-year term, led dozens of writing workshops, and organized a number of community events focused on Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rican diaspora. With Ashley Davis and Kirwyn Sutherland, Raquel co-curated We (Too) Are Philly, a six-part summer poetry festival that centered poets of color performing in shared creative spaces around the city. This year, with Boston Poet Laureate Porsha Olayiwola as a collaborator, Raquel organized Home on Our Back: A Laureate’s Reading on the Poetics of Diaspora, which brought poets from Boston and Philadelphia together in the Free Library’s Heim Center to explore how migrations have shaped our two cities. In recognition of this work, the Academy of American Poets awarded Raquel one of the inaugural Poet Laureate Fellowships, a prestigious new honor from one of the leading poetry organizations in the United States.
Yolanda Wisher, who served as laureate in 2016 and 2017, reached 80,000 people through more than 170 appearances. These included readings, performances, radio interviews, workshops, and the Outbound Poetry Festival, Yolanda’s signature Poet Laureate project which was held at Amtrak’s 30th Street Station. Using the Free Library’s special collections as inspiration, Yolanda also curates Yolanda Wisher’s Rent Party at the Rosenbach—a series begun during her laureateship—and led the Stellar Masses series in 2018. You can find more information about Philadelphia’s past Poets Laureate and their many projects on our website.
Philadelphia’s poetry scene is alive like never before, and we have even more to look forward to in 2020 with Trapeta as Poet Laureate. If you are interested in inviting Trapeta to read, please contact email@example.com.