Chicago Poet Laureate Celebration

The Poetry Foundation kicks off their Fall 2023 season at the Harold Washington Library with a celebration of Chicago's first Poet Laureate, avery r. young. He will perform alongside other poet laureates E’mon Lauren Black (Chicago Youth Poet Laureate), Nandi Comer (Michigan), Angela Jackson (Illinois), Amanda Johnston (Texas), and Airea D. Matthews (Philadelphia).

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 BlackThe 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), the soundtrack to his collection of poetry, neckbone: visual verses. Learn more at

E’mon Lauren Black is a multi-hyphenate artist and educator from the Wes & Souf side of Chicago whose works explores her coined philosophy of “hood-womanism.” She is the first Youth Poet Laureate of Chicago and has been featured in Vogue magazine, Chicago Magazine, and the Chicago Tribune. She is the host and creator of the hit talkshow, The Real Hoodwives of Chicago, originally produced by her production company, BlkHoneyBun Productions, LLC. Her first book of poems, COMMANDO, was published by Haymarket in 2017.

Nandi Comer is the Poet Laureate of Michigan. She is the author of American Family: A Syndrome (Finishing Line Press) and Tapping Out (Northwestern University Press), which was awarded the 2020 Society of Midland Authors Award and the 2020 Julie Suk Award. She is a Cave Canem Fellow, a Callaloo Fellow, and a Kresge Arts in Detroit Fellow. She currently serves as a poetry editor for Obsidian: Literature and Arts in the African Diaspora and as the co-director of Detroit Lit.

Angela Jackson is a Chicago poet, playwright, and novelist. She has received numerous honors for both fiction and poetry, including the 2022 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the Pushcart Prize, the Poetry Society of America’s Shelley Memorial Award, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Illinois Arts Council. Her poetry collection, All These Roads Be Luminous (1998), was nominated for the National Book Award, and her debut novel, Where I Must Go (2009), won the American Book Award. Jackson has also written several plays: Comfort Stew (2019), Witness! (1978), Shango Diaspora: An African-American Myth of Womanhood and Love (1980), and Lightfoot: The Crystal Stair (1984).

Amanda Johnston is a writer, artist, and the 2024 Texas Poet Laureate. She is the author of two chapbooks, GUAP and Lock & Key, and the full-length collection, Another Way to Say Enter. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, among them CallalooPoetry magazine, The Offing, and the anthologies Furious Flower: Seeding the Future of African American Poetry and Women of Resistance: Poems for a New Feminism. She has received fellowships, grants, and awards from Cave Canem, Hedgebrook, the Watermill Center, and American Short Fiction. She is a founder of Torch Literary Arts and a former board president of Cave Canem.

Airea D. Matthews’s first collection of poems is the critically acclaimed Simulacra, which received the prestigious 2016 Yale Series of Younger Poets Award. Matthews is also the author of Bread and Circus, a memoir-in-verse that combines poetry, prose, and imagery to explore the realities of economic necessity, marginal poverty, and commodification through a personal lens. Matthews received a 2020 Pew Fellowship, a 2016 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, and was awarded the Louis Untermeyer Scholarship in Poetry from the 2016 Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. Matthews earned her MFA from the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan. In 2022, she was named Philadelphia’s Poet Laureate. She is an assistant professor at Bryn Mawr College where she directs the poetry program.

Masks are strongly encouraged and available at check-in for those who would like to wear one. Please note that some event performers may choose to perform without a mask. The Foundation reserves the right to update this policy if community levels of COVID-19 increase significantly. Read our full COVID-19 Health & Safety Guidelines.

Please note that advanced registration on Eventbrite does not guarantee entrance, as events at the Harold Washington Library are first come first serve.

The Poetry Foundation’s events are completely free of charge and open to the public. This event will include CART captioning and ASL interpretation. For more information about accessibility at the Poetry Foundation, please visit our Accessibility Guide.