Yalie Saweda Kamara

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Cincinnati and Mercantile Library Poet Laureate, 2022–2023

Yalie Saweda Kamara was born on December 19, 1984, in San Francisco. She is a Sierra Leonean American writer, educator, and researcher from Oakland, California. Saweda Kamara earned BA degrees in foreign languages (Portuguese and French) and creative writing, an MA in French culture and civilization from Middlebury College, an MFA in creative writing from Indiana University Bloomington, and a PhD in creative writing and English literature from the University of Cincinnati. 

Saweda Kamara is the author of the full-length collection Besaydoo (Milkweed Editions, 2024) and the chapbooks A Brief Biography of My Name (Akashic Books/African Poetry Book Fund, 2018) and When The Living Sing (Ledge Mule Press, 2017). Saweda Kamara is also editor of the anthology What You Need to Know About Me: Young Writers on Their Experience of Immigration (The Hawkins Project, 2022). 

Saweda Kamara is the recipient of several awards, including the 2023 Elizabeth Alexander Creative Writing Award for Poetry and the 2022–23 Jake Adam York Prize, as well as fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center, the National Book Critics Circle, and Callaloo

Saweda Kamara, who serves as the 2022–23 Cincinnati and Mercantile Library poet laureate, resides in Cincinnati where she is an assistant professor of English at Xavier University. In 2023, Saweda Kamara received an Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellowship