While the commonwealth of Pennsylvania has no poet laureate (after a decade, the title was abolished in 2003), Philadelphia has staked out its position as a thriving artistic city with its second appointment in a year. Mayor Michael A. Nutter announced last week that Siduri Beckman has been named the City of Philadelphia’s first Youth Poet Laureate in a City Hall ceremony with the City’s inaugural Poet Laureate Sonia Sanchez. A position complementing the city’s poet laureate, the youth poet laureate was selected from among high school youth residing within the city of Philadelphia.
Sanchez, currently serving a two-year term, provided input to the Poet Laureate Governing Committee, whose members are Siobhan Reardon, president and director of the Free Library of Philadelphia; Al Filreis, faculty director of Kelly Writers House at the University of Pennsylvania; Beth Feldman Brandt, poet and executive director of the Stockton Rush Bartol Foundation; and Greg Corbin, founder and executive director, Philly Youth Poetry Movement. After a rigorous selection process, two finalists were selected, Jaya Montague and Siduri Beckman, both of whom read their original poetry as part of the event.
“It is an honor to announce that the Poet Laureate Committee has selected a young person to promote poetry and the arts to the youth of Philadelphia,” said Nutter. “The city is proud to acknowledge the power and importance of poetry as an art form. Programs like the Philly Youth Poetry Movement have shown the impact that poetry can have on the positive development of young people, and it’s significant that we are officially recognizing this impact.”
Gary Steuer, chair of the Poet Laureate Governing Committee and chief cultural officer of the OACCE said, “We were pleased to see the caliber of talent displayed by the applicants for the position and look forward to working with the Youth Poet Laureate as she begins to fulfill the duties associated with the position. We look forward to seeing her grow as a poet and develop her talents while inspiring her fellow youth to greater artistic pursuits and success in life.”
Following the announcement of the Youth Poet Laureate, Beckman and Sanchez recited poetry together for the first time. “Poetry makes us remember the best of ourselves and others,” said Sanchez. “How it keeps us constantly confronting the most important question of this twenty-first century: what does it mean to be human?”