Chicago Poet Laureate Program
avery r. young – Inaugural Chicago Poet Laureate
avery r. young, Chicago Poet Laureate, pictured at the Poetry Foundation.
Photo by Patrick L. Pyszka, City of Chicago.
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 new 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 festivals—notably 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.
Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot, in coordination with the Chicago Public Library, Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, and the Poetry Foundation, announced the creation of the Chicago Poet Laureate program in January 2023. The program 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.
avery r. young was named the inaugural Chicago Poet Laureate on April 24, 2023. His first public appearance as Chicago Poet Laureate took place on Saturday, April 29, 2023, at the Chicago Public Library’s Poetry Fest at the Harold Washington Library Center.
The Chicago Poet Laureate serves a two-year term and is awarded a contract of $50,000 ($25,000/year) for the commissioning of new poems and for the creation of a public program series, including programs for youth and students. The Poet Laureate serves as an ambassador for the city’s literary and creative communities.
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 1300 submitted nominations, more than 200 poets were invited to confirm their eligibility to apply to be Chicago Poet Laureate. Subsequently, more than fifty individuals submitted applications for the role. Read more about the nomination and application process here.
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.
Past Programs & Performances
Chicago Poet Laureate Celebration
Thursday, September 7, 2023
The Chicago Public Library and the Poetry Foundation presented a Chicago Poet Laureate Celebration with Chicago’s Poet Laureate, avery r. young. He performed alongside other poets laureate Nandi Comer (Michigan), Angela Jackson (Illinois), Amanda Johnston (Texas), E’mon Lauren (Chicago Youth Poet Laureate), and Airea D. Matthews (Philadelphia). The evening was a unique and special celebration of poetry, which kicked off the Poetry Foundation's fall season.
avery r. young at the Inauguration of Mayor Brandon Johnson as the 57th Mayor of the City of Chicago
Monday, May 15, 2023
Chicago Poet Laureate, avery r. young, reads an original poem at the Inauguration of Mayor Brandon Johnson.
Watch the recording online. The reading begins at minute mark 35:11.
Meet Chicago’s inaugural Poet Laureate at the Chicago Public Library’s Poetry Fest
Saturday, April 29, 2023
Live from the Harold Washington Library Center, this Poetry Fest Keynote celebrated the announcement of award-winning poet, educator, composer, performer, and producer, avery r. young as the first ever Chicago Poet Laureate. In addition to his performance, young was in conversation with Dr. Eve L. Ewing, a writer, scholar and cultural organizer in Chicago.
About the Partners
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 CPL on Twitter (@chipublib), Facebook (Chicago Public Library), or Instagram (@chicagopubliclibrary).
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.
The Poetry Foundation recognizes the power of words to transform lives. The Foundation works 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 magazine at @PoetryMagazine on Twitter.