Chicago, IL

Mayor Announces First-Ever Chicago Poet Laureate

Nicholas Barron

Guess what, Windy City? You have your first-ever poet laureate!

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced the appointment of avery r. young as the city's first poet laureate.

Young, an award-winning composer, teacher, visual artist, and producer, will reign supreme over the next two years as Chicago's expert in all things creative and literary. Young's role comes with a $50,000 award for commissioning new poems and creating public programming for youths and students.

Photo byPatrick Pyszka, City of Chicago

Young told the Chicago Sun-Times that he hopes to inspire young minds to embrace the beauty and creativity of poetry. And he would know. Not only is young co-director of The Floating Museum art collective and a Cave Canem fellow, but he also heads the blues, funk, and gospel band avery r. young & de deacon board.

Young's love for poetry began in the third grade after reading his first book of poems, "I Am the Darker Brother: An Anthology of Modern Poems by Negro Americans."

Young says poetry is a photograph made from words, and if you're reading simple rhymes, you're already learning poetry.

"First and foremost, poems are little stories, and the poetry is the means by which we capture those moments through language," Young said. "Just as a painter uses paints, the way in which photographers use a camera. Poets use words to paint those pictures. It may sound like a cliche, but a poem is a photograph made from words."

A City of Poetic Tradition

While Young is Chicago's first poet laureate, he's part of the Windy City's long poetic tradition.

For example, Gwendolyn Brooks. Brooks became the first Black American to win a Pulitzer Prize in 1950. Born in Topeka, Kan., Brooks's family moved to Chicago when she was young. She began writing poetry early and published her first poem at 13.

Brooks became one of the most significant and celebrated poets of the 20th century, known for her vivid depictions of urban life and for highlighting the experiences of black Americans. She served as Poet Laureate of Illinois for 32 years and completed a term as U.S. poet laureate in 1985-1986.

Carl Sandburg is another famous poet from Chicago. Born in Galesburg, Ill., Sandburg spent many years in the Windy City. He was a renowned writer, poet, journalist, and biographer. Sandburg won three Pulitzer Prizes during his career and was a beloved figure in the literary world.

Sandra Cisneros is another esteemed poet from Chicago. Born in Chicago to a Mexican-American family, Cisneros has become a leading voice in Latino literature. Her critically acclaimed novel "The House on Mango Street" is a staple in classrooms nationwide. She has also published numerous poetry collections. Cisneros' work often explores issues of identity, culture, and the immigrant experience.

These are just a few of the many famous poets to come from the vibrant city of Chicago. With the appointment of the city's first-ever poet laureate, avery r. young, the Windy City continues to be a beacon of creativity and literary excellence.

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