Music Feature

Philadelphia Names Sonia Sanchez First Poet Laureate

by James Boney
Philadelphia continues it's long literary history by crowning first official poet laureate.

The title of ‘poet laureate’ comes from the laurels with which the ancient Greeks traditionally crowned their most celebrated poets. And it is in this grand history that Philadelphia names its very first poet laureate: Sonia Sanchez.

Born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1943, Sanchez earned her B.A. in political science from Hunter College in 1955. After college Sanchez spent time in Greenwich Village where she formed a successful writers’ workshop that was attended by such poets as Amiri Baraka, Haki R. Madhubuti, and Larry Neal.

From there, Sanchez went on to form the “Broadside Quartet.” Promoted by Dudley Randall, she was joined in the Quartet by Madhubuti, Nikki Giovanni, and Etheridge Knight.  

Having authored more than a dozen books of poetry, and lectured at more than 500 universities and colleges, Sanchez is the recipient of numerous honors including: the Community Service Award from the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, the Lucretia Mott Award, the Outstanding Arts Award from the Pennsylvania Coalition of 100 Black Women, the Peace and Freedom Award from Women International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), the Pennsylvania Governor's Award for Excellence in the Humanities, a National Endowment for the Arts Award, and a Pew Fellowship in the Arts.

Showing his continued commitment to the development of the arts in Philadelphia, Mayor Nutter announced the retired Temple University professor, and current poet in residence at Temple, as the cities first official poet laureate on December 29th.

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