Celebrating Diversity Through Poetry in Philly and Beyond

By Free Library Foundation RSS Mon, April 15, 2024

April is both Celebrate Diversity Month and National Poetry Month. Therefore, it is the perfect time to shine a spotlight on the City of Philadelphia's Poet Laureate and Youth Poet Laureate, as well as past and present Poet Laureates representing the diverse voices of the United States in our nation’s capital.

The National Poet Laureate

The National Poet Laureate is appointed annually by the U.S. Librarian of Congress and typically serves for two consecutive terms (from September to April). According to the Library of Congress, the Poet Laureate has the honor of reading their poetry at the Library of Congress each year, and these events are free and open to the public. Poet Laureates are also given maximum freedom to work on their own projects while at the Library. Many strive to raise awareness and appreciation of poetry on a national level” and each individual brings something unique to the position.

The Current Poet Laureate, Ada Limón, is of Mexican ancestry. She is the author of six award-winning poetry collections, including The Hurting Kind (2022), The Carrying (2018), Bright Dead Things (2015), Sharks in the Rivers (2010), Lucky Wreck (2006), and This Big Fake World (2006). She holds a Master of Fine Arts from New York University and received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, and the Kentucky Foundation for Women. Limón is one of several distinguished and diverse Poet Laureates in our country’s history. Others of note include Joy Harjo, Tracy K. Smith, Juan Felipe Herrera, Natasha Trethewey, Kay Ryan, and Rita Dove, as well as a long and inclusive list of National Youth Poet Laureates.


The Philadelphia Poet Laureate and Youth Poet Laureate

The City of Philadelphia Poet Laureate program is administered by the Free Library of Philadelphia and guided by a governing committee composed of poets, educators, and arts organization professionals from around the city. This two-year civic position recognizes an exceptional poet who also demonstrates a commitment to the power of poetry to engage and inspire people throughout Philadelphia's neighborhoods.

Our 2024–2025 Poet Laureate is Kai Davis, a Temple University alum and Black Queer writer from Philadelphia. Davis has published four chapbooks: Music and Marrow (2013), The Falling Action (2014), Black Chronicle (2016), and Ain't I? (2019), and her work has also been featured in The Offing (2018), The Shade Journal (2019), and Mouths of Rain: An Anthology of Black Lesbian Thought (2021). Common themes include structural racism, misogyny, Black womanhood, ancestral trauma, mental health, intersectionality, and Queer love. Davis serves as Poetry Editor for Apiary Magazine, Co-Host and Artistic Director of The Philly Pigeon, a Philadelphia-based poetry performance collective, and teacher of poetry to marginalized and under-served youth.

The Poet Laureate program also supports a new Youth Poet Laureate each year. Currently, Oyewumi Oyeniyi, a senior at Cristo Rey Philadelphia High School, holds this distinction and represents the voice of Philadelphia's youth poets.


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