Roses are red and cherries, too
Poets galore for me and you.
April is National Poetry Month, a time for us to read, love and share our favorite poems and poets. Lucky for us, Philadelphia boasts a strong connection to the poetic tradition, and not just because of famous poets of the past, like Walt Whitman and Edgar Allen Poe—Temple poets actually have a lot to do with it ...
Sonia Sanchez, HON ’98
Sonia Sanchez became the university’s first Presidential Fellow and held the Laura Carnell Chair in English until her retirement in 1999. During his tenure, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter named Sanchez our city’s first Poet Laureate, with her two-year term beginning Jan. 2, 2012. Her craft invokes cultural change, community, loss, love and more through both experimental form and traditional structures like haiku and Tanka.
Sanchez’s prolific career spans more than half a century and she was one of the leading figures in the Black Arts Movement. Authoring more than 16 books, including plays and children’s literature, her work has received countless accolades, like the Robert Frost Medal and the Langston Hughes Poetry Award. And her next collection is due this month. Maybe you saw her Women’s History Month marker outside the TECH Center?
Yolanda Wisher, CLA ’00
On to Philadelphia’s third Poet Laureate and the inaugural Poet Laureate of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, Yolanda Wisher. She worked for ten years as a high school English teacher, served as director of art education for Philadelphia Mural Arts, and founded and directed both the Germantown Poetry and Outbound Poetry Festivals. In the past, she’s also partnered with Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Free Library of Philadelphia and the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture—her far-reaching influence in Philly’s poetry scene is remarkable. And now she’s a poet-in-residence at Temple.
Her playful yet often brutal work engages with themes of intimacy, power and identity. As she is a native of the city, we trust her guidance. So let’s walk up Chestnut Street with Wisher and see where we land.
And if you want to delve further into her work, Wisher’s recent New York Times publication is a timely ode to COVID-19 isolation—the communal experience we’ve all been lamenting.
Trapeta Mayson, CLA ’93
Dial 855-763-6792, the Healing Verse Philly Poetry Line, and introduce yourself to Philadelphia’s current Poet Laureate Trapeta Mayson. Mayson understands the weight the pandemic, the presidential election, and the recent incidents of civil unrest and racial reckoning has left on our city. In the spirit of healing, the hotline features an affirming poem every Monday and promotes upcoming events and wellness resources in Philadelphia.
The Liberian native grew up in North Philadelphia, and many of her works highlight the immigrant experience as well as those of everyday people. She’s a recipient of multiple awards and has even collaborated with internationally acclaimed jazz guitarist Monnette Sudler on music and poetry mixed projects.
Darla Himeles, CLA ’20
A translator, essayist and holder of three literature degrees, Darla Himeles is a bibliophile and seasoned writer. She’s also assistant director of Temple’s Writing Center and an accomplished poet, too, of course. Himeles is launching her first full-length poetry collection, Cleave, this month. In this debut, she explores early trauma exploration, lesbian love and the complexities of conceiving in a same-sex marriage.
Professor of English Jena Osman is the author of more than five poetry collections and founder of the internationally recognized literary magazine Chain. She is recipient of multiple grants and has been a writing fellow at MacDowell Colony, the Blue Mountain Center, the Djerassi Foundation and Château de la Napoule. Through Temple’s MFA Creative Writing Program, Osman instructs our next generation of writers.
Emily Abendroth, CLA ’05
Our other poet-in-residence, who has taught at nine other colleges, is Emily Abendroth. She often publishes her work in limited edition, handcrafted chapbooks by small and micro-presses, such as the Albion Press. Sousveillance Pageant, her forthcoming hybrid collection slated to release this year, combines poetry, novel and research essay elements in response to surveillance and the carceral state.
Babel Poetry Collective
Temple’s award-winning student poetry collective, Babel, leads the university in lyrical song through spoken word performance. Composed of poets, MCs, singers and musicians alike, Babel works to legitimize and establish poetry as a vital form of art. And the ensemble of Owls always look to grow.
Malcolm Kenyatta, KLN ’12, found inspiration in the poetry troupe’s raw honesty during his time as a student. The Temple News recently reported on Kenyatta’s experience with poetry and how it shaped his way of speaking as a public servant and rising political star.