Past Philadelphia Poets Laureate

2022-2023, Airea D. Matthews

Airea D. Matthews

Airea D. Matthews' first collection of poems is the critically acclaimed Simulacra, which received the prestigious 2016 Yale Series of Younger Poets Award. The collection explores the topics of longing and desire with power, insight, and intense emotion. New Yorker critic Dan Chiasson describes Matthews's experimental forms as, "Fugues, text messages to the dead, imagined outtakes from Wittgenstein, tart mini-operas, fairy tales: Matthews is virtuosic, frantic, and darkly, very darkly, funny."

For her writing, Matthews earned a 2020 Pew Fellowship as well as the 2017 Margaret Walker For My People award. In 2016, she received both the Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers' Award and the Louis Untermeyer Scholarship in Poetry from the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference. Her work has appeared in Callaloo, Gulf Coast, Best American Poets, American Poet, The Rumpus, Tin House, Los Angeles Review of Books, Harvard Review, and elsewhere. A Cave Canem, Callaloo, and Kresge Literary Arts Fellow, Matthews is a founding member of the transdisciplinary art studio The Teeth Factory.

Matthews holds a B.A. in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania as well as an M.F.A. from the Helen Zell Writers' Program and an M.P.A. from the Gerald Ford School of Public Policy, both at the University of Michigan. She is an assistant professor and directs the poetry program at Bryn Mawr College, where she was presented the Lindback Distinguished Teaching award.

2020-2021, Trapeta Mayson

Trapeta Mayson

Trapeta Mayson reads her poetry widely and works extensively facilitating poetry and creative writing workshops. Her work sheds light on and honors the immigrant experience as well as amplifies the stories of everyday people. She is a 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 was also 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. Trapeta 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 Review, Epiphany Literary Journal, Aesthetica Magazine, and Margie: The American Journal of Poetry among others.

Trapeta is a native of Liberia who grew up in North Philadelphia and Germantown. She is a member of the Greene Street Artists Cooperative in Germantown. Trapeta is a graduate of Temple University, Bryn Mawr Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research, and Villanova University School of Business. A Licensed Clinical Social Worker with a strong non-profit background, she currently works at a community mental health agency. As a teaching artist, she has worked with hundreds of youth and adults in schools, cultural institutions, correctional facilities, shelters, and numerous other community venues — using poetry to foster creative expression and promote healing. Trapeta is also a member of several local organizations where she partners with others to help mobilize and build community.

2018-2019, Raquel Salas Rivera

Raquel Salas Rivera

Raquel Salas Rivera is a queer Puerto Rican poet and translator who lives in Philadelphia. Their work has appeared in journals such as the Revista del Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña, Apiary, Apogee, BOAAT, and the Boston Review. They are the author of Caneca de anhelos turbios (Editora Educación Emergente) and tierra intermitente (Ediciones Alayubia). Their third full-length book lo terciario/the tertiary is forthcoming in 2018 from Timeless, Infinite Light. Currently, they are Co-Editor of The Wanderer, and Co-Editor of Puerto Rico en mi corazón, a collection of bilingual broadsides of contemporary Puerto Rican poets published by Anomalous Press, of which 100% of sales will be donated directly to Taller Salud to assist Puerto Rico in recovering from Hurricane Maria. Alongside their partner, they have raised money and organized relief efforts for Puerto Rican LGBQTIA evacuees, while continuing to build strong ties between Philadelphia and Puerto Rico.

Raquel Salas Rivera es una poeta y traductora cuir y puertorriqueña que vive en Filadelfia. Sus poemas han aparecido en revistas tales como la Revista del Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña, Apiary, Apogee, BOAAT, y el Boston Review. Es la autora de Caneca de anhelos turbios (Editora Educación Emergente) y tierra intermitente (Ediciones Alayubia). Timeless, Infinite Light publicará su tercer libro, lo terciario/the tertiary, en el 2018. En la actualidad, es co-editora para The Wanderer y co-editora de Puerto Rico en mi corazón, una colección bilingüe de volantes de poetas puertorriqueños contemporáneos, del cual el 100% de las ventas serán donadas de manera directa a Taller Salud para asistir la recuperación de Puerto Rico luego del paso del huracán Marí a. Junto a su pareja, organizó un recogido de fondos y un programa de alivio para evacuados LGBQTIA y continúa fortaleciendo los lazos entre Filadelfia y Puerto Rico.

2016-2017, Yolanda Wisher

Yolanda Wisher

Yolanda Wisher is the author of the poetry volume Monk Eats an Afro (Hanging Loose Press, 2014) and co-editor of the anthology Peace is a Haiku Song (Philadelphia Mural Arts, 2013) with mentor and first Philadelphia Poet Laureate Sonia Sanchez. A former high school English teacher, she has long been active in Philadelphia's artistic and cultural sphere. Wisher founded and directed a Germantown neighborhood poetry festival, worked as Director of Art Education for Philadelphia Mural Arts, and has spearheaded numerous community-driven programs with partners such as The Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Rosenbach, Historic Germantown, and the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture. Most recently, Wisher collaborated with Philadelphia Contemporary on the Outbound Poetry Festival, a pop-up poetry festival in Philadelphia's 30th Street Station. Her writing has appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Philadelphia Citizen, PoetryNow, Obsidian, Ploughshares, and other media. She is a Pew Fellow, Cave Canem Fellow, and Hedgebrook Writer-in-Residence. She lives in Germantown.

2014-2015, Frank Sherlock

Frank Sherlock

A 2013 Pew Fellow in the Arts, Frank Sherlock is the author of Space Between These Lines Not Dedicated, Over Here, The City Real & Imagined (w/ C.A. Conrad) and a collaboration with Brett Evans entitled Ready-to-Eat Individual. Poems beyond the page have found their forms in installations, performances, and exhibitions, including Organize Your Own: The Politics & Poetics of Self-Determination. His project as Philadelphia Poet Laureate was "Write Your Block," which gave Philadelphians an opportunity to explore their neighborhoods via poetry, mapping and remapping their city according to their personal memories, associations, and histories.

2012-2013, Sonia Sanchez

Sonia Sanchez

Poet, playwright, activist, and scholar Sonia Sanchez is considered one of the founders of the Black Arts Movement. She has authored more than a dozen books of poetry, including Morning Haiku (Beacon Press, 2010); Shake Loose My Skin: New and Selected Poems (Beacon Press, 1999); Does Your House Have Lions? (Beacon Press, 1995), Homegirls & Handgrenades (White Pine Press, 1984), We a BaddDDD People (Broadside Press, 1970); and Homecoming (Broadside Press, 1969). She has also published plays, as well as books for children. Along with a Frost Medal, Pennsylvania Governor's Award for Excellence in the Humanities, National Endowment for the Arts Award, and a Pew Fellowship in the Arts, she has received many other accolades. She has lectured at hundreds of colleges and universities, was the first Presidential Fellow at Temple University, and the city of Philadelphia's first Poet Laureate.