Home Creative writing Airea D. Matthews is the New Philadelphia Poet Laureate

Airea D. Matthews is the New Philadelphia Poet Laureate


Award-winning author Airea D. Matthews has been selected as the sixth Philadelphia Poet Laureate, according to the Poet Laureate Steering Committee of the Free Library of Philadelphia.

She will serve as a representative of the city’s growing poetic and literary scene until the end of 2023.

Matthews’ first collection of poems, 2016 “Simulacra”, won the Yale Series of Younger Poets award. His work has been highlighted in several local and national outlets, including Harvard Review and Los Angeles Review of Books. His poem entitled “From the pocket of his lip” was recently featured in New York Times Magazine.

“Airea is a poet who is not afraid of the shadow or the strangeness of questions”, The statement from the Free Library of Philadelphia reads. “His work experiences the limits of narrative and embraces the complexities and joy at the center of a life of poetry. His poems seem to ask the question of what a poem is, what form it can take and what music it can invent. ”

She is currently working as co-director and assistant professor of Bryn Mawr College’s Creative Writing Department.

Matthews holds a BA in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania, as well as an MFA in Poetry and an MPA in Social Policy from the University of Michigan. She is also a visiting and scholar at Rutgers University, where she works at the Institute for the Study of Global Racial Justice.

The Philadelphia Free Library has run the city’s Poet Laureate program since 2017. Matthews will work closely with the current Young Poet Laureate – Little Flower Catholic High School junior Andrea Rhoads – until the end of his mandate, which ends at the end of 2022.

The civic post includes a stipend of $ 5,000 and support for a community project, which each recipient creates based on their own personal philosophy about poetry and its impact on the community.

Philly’s latest poet laureate, Trapeta Mayson, used her position to create the Healing Verse phone line. The free hotline features a new poet adjacent to Philly each week to discuss mental wellness. Mayson worked in partnership with the Water Department to host poetry workshops in Germantown focusing on flooding and public rain art. She then worked in partnership with Mural Arts Philadelphia on additional poetry workshops with residents of East and West Kensington who have been affected by drug addiction and housing insecurity.

The result of the Kensington workshops – a community poem entitled “our history of us” – is now presented on the roof of 2400 Kensington Ave.

Matthews says WHY that she thinks poets underestimate the power of “the saying” and the way words can change the way people think and feel. Asked about her plans for a potential community project, she said she wanted to bring poetry to people who don’t know where to look for it.

“And so I’m trying to find ways to turn those textual sayings into public displays,” she said.

His son, Wes Matthews, was previously named Philadelphia young poet laureate 2018, when he was a senior at the Science Leadership Academy.