City of Chicago Announces Inaugural Chicago Poet Laureate Avery R. Young

Chicago has its first ever poet laureate and he is Black.

On Monday, Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot, in partnership with the Chicago Public Library (CPL), the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE), and the Poetry Foundation, named avery r. young as the inaugural Chicago Poet Laureate.

“I am proud to name avery r. young as the first-ever Chicago Poet Laureate,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “As a multifaceted, boundary-breaking poet and transformational youth educator who was born and bred in Chicago, avery will serve and strengthen our city’s literary and creative communities.”

An award-winning poet, educator, composer, performer, and producer, young’s work spans the genres of music, performance, visual arts and literature. He is a co-director of The Floating Museum, Cave Canem fellow, Leader for a New Chicago 2022 awardee, and performer with his band, de deacon board. With more than two decades as a teaching artist, he has mentored generations of young poets. His poetry and prose are featured in several anthologies and periodicals. In the foreword of his most recent book, neckbone: visual verses, Theaster Gates called young, “one of our greatest living street poets.”

“From the open mic to lecture halls, from Lollapalooza to the Art Institute, I have been on a journey to figure out all the spaces where language can make room and build. I don’t walk into this appointment by myself, I enter this tenure with a community of social activists, creatives and municipal entities excited about the many ways in which this Poet Laureate appointment can weave poetry into the fabric of this great city,” shared Chicago Poet Laureate avery r. young. “I understand the history in being the inaugural Poet Laureate, but I also understand the service it will take to lay the groundwork of a legacy and platform for all the Laureates who will follow.”

As Chicago Poet Laureate, young will serve a two-year term and be awarded $50,000 for the commissioning of new poems and to create public programming, including programs for youth and students. The Poet Laureate will serve as an ambassador for the city’s literary and creative communities.

“We are thrilled about the appointment of avery r. young as the first-ever Chicago Poet Laureate and cannot wait to collaborate with him on a range of exciting new programs and works that will enrich our neighborhood library branches,” stated Chris Brown, CPL Commissioner. “This Poet Laureate program not only acknowledges the immense talent of Chicago’s creators, but also offers a unique opportunity to amplify and celebrate their contributions. As we welcome avery in his new role, we are excited to witness the transformative power of poetry in our library branches and beyond.”

The Chicago Poet Laureate program, which was announced in January 2023, comes from the advocacy of the city’s creative and civic communities. It aims to increase awareness of Chicago’s historic contributions to the literary arts while celebrating and honoring the efforts of Chicago’s working artists. The announcement of the Chicago Poet Laureate coincides with the celebration of National Poetry Month.

“On behalf of the Poetry Foundation, I want to congratulate avery r. young on being named Chicago’s first Poet Laureate,” said Michelle T. Boone, president of the Poetry Foundation. “As a gifted multidisciplinary artist, he is uniquely poised to amplify poetry and foster a love for it in new audiences. The Poetry Foundation has experienced the power of his art over his years of collaboration with us, and we look forward to supporting his efforts to craft a promising future for our community through poetry.”


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