Philly’s new ‘poetry ambassador’ champions creativity, engagement

Trapeta B. Mayson
Photo credit Hadas Kuznits/KYW Newsradio
PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The city debuted its newest poet laureate Thursday at the Free Library of Philadelphia, who will be a champion for the verse over the next two years.

Trapeta B. Mayson was selected from a competitive pool of applicants. Mayson, who is a teaching artist and native of Liberia, said she gravitates toward stories about everyday people and the immigrant experience.  

As the city's new poet laureate, she will host hundreds of readings and lead a civic project of her own design.

“You're almost like a poetry ambassador for the city,” she explained. “Your job is not only to think about writing and creating poetry, as I do all the time, but it's also engaging. Engaging communities, young people, people from all over the city, and engaging them in the creation of poetry, appreciation of poetry.”

Andrew Nurkin, deputy director for enrichment and civic engagement at the Free Library, said more than a dozen people applied this year.

“Trapeta really stood out because of her work with young people as well as her own poetic career,” he noted. “Her work sample really stood out and her commitment to poetry as a civic art.”

For those feeling a bit bashful toward the idea of writing poetry, Mayson said not to fret over the little stuff — like rhyming. She said poems do not have to rhyme, they just have to be authentic.

“For me, personally, I'm an immigrant. I write a lot about immigration, immigrant stories. I also have lived in the wonderful communities of North Philadelphia and Germantown,” she said. “I'm from Liberia, so I write about all of those things.”

Overall, Mayson hopes to spread the message that your voice is valuable.

“Anytime a platform is created for you, take advantage of it,” she advised. “There's no wrong way to do it as long as you're getting your words out. Your narrative and your story is valued, it's welcome and we need more of it.”

Listen to a sample of Mayson’s poetry below: