Philadelphia Youth Poet Laureate for 2022-23: Telicia Darius

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When she was younger, Telicia Darius was enrolled in a program for children who were struggling in school.

But Darius – and his grandmother – knew his worth and that better things were around the corner.

So when Darius found out she was going to be named Philadelphia Youth Poet Laureate, it felt like the fulfillment of a promise.

“My grandma said, ‘I knew you had potential, and you keep showing people you do,'” said Darius, 17, a senior at Hardy Williams Charter School who follows his course this year at Community College of Philadelphia in a dual enrollment program.

Mayor Jim Kenney and Philadelphia Free Library Director Kelly Richards are expected to officially announce Darius as the city’s 2022-23 Poet Laureate at a ceremony Monday. Honor comes with a $1,000 scholarship and a platform – the opportunity to engage Philadelphians through readings, events, and a project of Darius’ choice.

She succeeds Andre’a Rhoads, young poet laureate 2021-22.

Darius is delighted, and only a little intimidated.

“I get nervous; I’m not going to say I’m so confident that I don’t get nervous,” Darius said. “But my poetry matters, and getting my words across matters.”

Darius became addicted to poetry very early, at the age of 7. She vividly remembers a second-grade assignment where she had to write about clouds.

“I’ve always been into the creative stuff,” said Darius, who writes and performs in English and French.

Her work doesn’t focus on any particular genre, but Darius gravitates towards poems about things happening around her.

“Philadelphia is a really great city. However, we have problems,” she said. Gun violence is paramount among them; everyone at his school knows someone who was murdered, Darius said.

“I would like to use my platform to raise awareness about this,” said Darius, who lives with his grandmother and aunts and will juggle his Poet Laureate duties with school work, participating in the slam poetry team from her school and her job at a grocery store. . (She also participated in the Young Writer’s Workshop at Bard College and Princeton University’s summer journalism program.)

Poetry can be a safety valve, she says.

“In the black community, people say, ‘You feel angry, but we’re all angry. We do not care?’ I would like to create a space for young people to feel that, to express it,” Darius said.

In the future, Darius dreams of continued success. She wants to double major in psychology and creative writing in college and pursue both.

“I want to tackle the mental health of the black community, to provide space for someone who wants to go to therapy but who does not necessarily go to therapy with someone who does not look like them,” he said. she stated.

But for now, she is happy to see her work recognized in such a public way.

“I know it’s really huge,” she said.

Indeed, the city’s current Adult Poet Laureate said in a statement:

Darius “is a young writer who thinks about body and race politics with vision and agency,” Airea D. Matthews said. “His work crosses all divisions to shake up those who sleep awake and urges us all to co-create a different future. Ready and sure, her voice is a bugle call to Philadelphia and the American shores beyond.

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