Yolanda Wisher is the 2016–17 Poet Laureate of Philadelphia. Wisher has been a force within Philadelphia’s literary scene for the past two decades, upholding poetry as a public art. She holds a BA in English and Black Studies from Lafayette College and an MA in Creative Writing/Poetry from Temple University. At the age of 23, Wisher served as the inaugural Poet Laureate of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. She is the author of the poetry volume Monk Eats an Afro (Hanging Loose Press, 2014) and coedited the anthology Peace is a Haiku Song (Philadelphia Mural Arts, 2013) with mentor and first Philadelphia Poet Laureate Sonia Sanchez. Wisher taught high school English for ten years, founded and directed a neighborhood festival headlined by youth poets in the Germantown section of Philadelphia, and worked as Director of Art Education for the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program. She has led and curated many innovative and community-driven programs with local and national partners, including The Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Rosenbach Museum and Library, Historic Germantown, LiveConnections, and the US Department of Arts and Culture. In April 2017, in collaboration with Philadelphia Contemporary, she organized the Outbound Poetry Festival, the first pop-up poetry festival in Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station. Wisher performs a unique blend of poetry and song with her band The Afroeaters, and her writings have been featured in a variety of media including GOOD Magazine, PennSound, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Philadelphia Citizen, Contemporary Black Canvas, Harriet the Blog, PoetryNow, Obsidian, Ploughshares, and CBC Radio. She is a Pew Fellow, Cave Canem Fellow, and Hedgebrook Writer-in-Residence. She lives in Germantown with her partner Mark Palacio, a double bassist and educator, and their son, Thelonious.
Photo by Mark Palacio, 2014.