Liberal Arts Alum Named Poet Laureate of Philadelphia
by Marketing and Communications Staff
"Becoming the Philadelphia Poet Laureate has thrown me into a time machine of reflection about my romance with poetry, which began as a young girl, walking to school composing rhymes in my head," Wisher says. "It's got me thinking fondly about the many teachers and students who made me keep falling in love with the art again and again."
In some ways, it still seems like a far-fetched dream that there is such a dynamic role for a poet to play here in Philadelphia. I humbly and excitedly accept this opportunity to ignite a passion for poetry in people all over the city.
Wisher, whose poetry has allowed her to make a mark on the city of Philadelphia through educational programs, poetry slams, community art projects and various other initiatives that gave her a platform to use words to make a difference, is a teacher and former director of education for the Mural Arts Program. While her passion has always been poetry, she has employed her art in the service of the Philadelphia community.
A native of North Wales, Pa., Wisher earned an undergraduate degree in English/Black Studies before attending Temple, where she was one of the first MFA students taught by current creative writing Program Director Jena Osman.
"Yolanda has always been concerned with poetry in community,” Osman says. “From when she was a graduate student and started Poetry for the People Philadelphia — named after June Jordan's arts and activism program — up through her work as a host for a community radio show about poetry, through her founding and organizing of the Germantown Poetry Festival, and her current work as an organizer for the U.S. Department of Arts & Culture.
“She is the perfect person for the position of Philadelphia Poet Laureate because she understands, and activates, the many ways that poetry can serve the public good."
Wisher also recently served as one of the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage 2015 fellows. In an interview with the College of Liberal Arts last year, she credited the fellowship with allowing her to focus on her work.
“I got tired of poetry being my side hustle,” she says. “It took me a long time to make the leap from a 9-to-5 job to being self-employed. But we’re living in a shift right now where artists are stepping out of the poverty or starving artist box and becoming more strategic, entrepreneurial.”
Wisher credits her multidisciplinary approach to her time as a graduate student at Temple.
I’m always looking through poetry into other disciplines—music, theater, visual art—and much of that perspective was crystallized at Temple.
Wisher’s work has appeared in Ploughshares, Fence, and GOOD Magazine, among other publications. Her first book of poetry, Monk Eats An Afro, was published in 2014.