CHICAGO — Today, 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, proudly named avery r. young as the inaugural Chicago Poet Laureate. An award-winning poet, educator, composer, performer, and producer, avery r. young's work spans the genres of music, performance, visual arts, and literature. He is co-director of The Floating Museum, a 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 avery, "one of our greatest living street poets."
As Chicago Poet Laureate, avery r. 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.
"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."
"avery is a poet and artist who connects, engages, and inspires," said Erin Harkey, DCASE Commissioner. "As the first Chicago Poet Laureate, avery will play an important role in helping to build and shape the program. We're honored to support him, and experience what he creates and catalyzes through his tenure as Laureate."
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.
avery r. young's first public appearance as Chicago Poet Laureate takes place, Saturday, April 29, 2023 from 2 - 3pm as part of the Chicago Public Library's annual National Poetry Month celebration, Poetry Fest at the Harold Washington Library Center (400 S. State St). avery will be in conversation with Dr. Eve L. Ewing. The public and press are invited to attend; interviews can be arranged following the event. Visit chipublib.org/poetry for more information about the event.
"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."
"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."
"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."
Chicago's inaugural Poet Laureate was selected through a dual public nomination and rigorous review process. In January 2023, a call for nominations went out broadly to the public. Through nearly 1,300 submitted nominations, more than 200 poets were invited to confirm their eligibility to apply to be Chicago Poet Laureate. Subsequently, more than 50 individuals submitted applications for the role. Read more about the nomination and application process at Chicago.gov/PoetLaureate.
A Review Committee made up of 12 community leaders with significant expertise in education, poetry, civic and cultural leadership, and the literary arts reviewed and scored all applications, interviewed candidates, and submitted a recommendation to the Mayor for final approval and appointment.
avery r. young
avery r. young is an interdisciplinary artist, educator, 3Arts Awardee, poetry editor for Bridge, Cave Canem fellow, and co-director of the Floating Museum. His poetry and prose have been featured in The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop, Teaching Black, The Golden Shovel Anthology: New Poems Honoring Gwendolyn Brooks, and AIMPrint, among other publications, and alongside images in photographer Cecil McDonald Jr's, In The Company of Black. He is the composer and librettist for a newly commissioned work from Lyric Opera of Chicago titled safronia, and full-length recording tubman. (FPE Records) is the soundtrack to his collection of poetry, neckbone: visual verses.
In the foreword of neckbone, Theaster Gates called young, "one of the most important thinkers on the Black experience." His album booker t. soltreyne: a race rekkid (FPE Records) engages matters of race, gender, and sexuality in America during the Obama Era. young's work in performance, visual text, and sound design has been featured in several exhibitions and theatre festivalsnotably the Chicago Hip Hop Theatre Fest, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, and the American Jazz Museum. In addition, he is one of four directors of the Floating Museum, a co-mentor for the Rebirth Youth Poetry Ensemble, and performs with his band, de deacon board.
With more than two decades of experience in the teaching artist field, young has led programs in and out of schools, community-based organizations, and other learning environments; he has also served as a teaching artist for the Arts and Public Life Artist-In-Residence at the University of Chicago. young's work has been dedicated to helping youth overcome social and economic barriers to accessing Chicago's artistic and cultural vitality. Learn more at averyryoung.com .
Chicago Public Library
Since 1873, Chicago Public Library (CPL) has encouraged lifelong learning by welcoming all people and offering equal access to information, entertainment, and knowledge through innovative services, programs, and technology. Through its 81 locations, the Library provides free access to a rich collection of materials, both physical and digital, and presents the highest quality author discussions, exhibits, and programs for children, teens, and adults. For more information, please call (312) 747-4300 or visit chipublib.org . To follow CPL on social media, visit us on Twitter (@chipublib), Facebook (Chicago Public Library), or Instagram (@chicagopubliclibrary).
The Poetry Foundation recognizes the power of words to transform lives. We work to amplify poetry and celebrate poets by fostering spaces for all to create, experience, and share poetry. Follow the Poetry Foundation on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and Poetry at @PoetryMagazine.
Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events
The City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) supports artists and cultural organizations, invests in the creative economy, and expands access and participation in the arts throughout Chicago's 77 neighborhoods. As a collaborative cultural presenter, arts funder, and advocate for creative workers, our programs and events serve Chicagoans and visitors of all ages and backgrounds, downtown and in diverse communities across our city to strengthen and celebrate Chicago. DCASE produces some of the city's most iconic festivals, markets, events, and exhibitions at the Chicago Cultural Center, Millennium Park, and in communities across the city serving a local and global audience of 25 million people. The Department offers cultural grants and resources, manages public art, supports TV and film production and other creative industries, and permits special events throughout Chicago. For details, visit Chicago.gov/DCASE and stay connected via our newsletters and social media.