PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Yolanda Wisher lost no time establishing her credentials after she was named the Philadelphia’s third Poet Laureate, Friday, reading her poem “A Love Letter to Philadelphia.”
…You are corner stores and cranes, murals and museums, litter and Love Park.
I used to be a girl poet from the suburbs in the back seat of my stepfather Doug’s army green Chrysler, yearning for you to look my way with your tragic smile…
I memorized all your street names– Indian Queen Lane, Rising Sun Avenue, Venango was a poisonous fruit of a word cassava sweet…
And then I started to really hear you, came to love you beyond pity and promiscuity…
Sat straight back in a plastic chair, room M18 in the Bonnell Building of CCP
While you coaxed the soprano out of me and I sang, yeah I sang….
Born to you and not from you, bound for you and bound to you,
I find pieces of you on every block and gather them up…..”
Wisher said it was a “breath-taking honor” to win the title but Beth Brandt of the Poet Laureate Governing Committee stressed Wisher would have real work to do in the position.
“It’s not a lifetime achievement award,” said Brandt, “it’s a civic position to advocate and represent and kind of rabble rouse for poetry in the community, and to engage young people, to bring energy and commitment to all parts of the city through poetry.”
That’s fine with Wisher, who said she moved to the city from Lansdale 16 years ago in search of a poetry community.
“I found it and it has shaped and inspired me,” she said. “I hope to grow that community of poetry and poets during my tenure as laureate and I will invite all Philadelphians, poets or not, to help me write the poems that tell our city’s story.”
Wisher, who taught at Germantown Friends and was Education Director of the Mural Arts Project, just completed a year as a Pew Fellow and calls herself the “Rhapsodist of Wherewithal” for an arts organization that calls itself the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture.
Mayor Kenney praised the choice and revealed that his favorite poets are W.B. Yeats, Langston Hughes and Tupac.