This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
The Free Library of Philadelphia has named the city’s new youth poet laureate.
Wes Matthews, a 17-year-old senior at Science Leadership Academy, was born and raised in Detroit, where he was active in poetry slams and competed nationally at the annual Brave New Voices festival.
He is new to Philadelphia, having relocated here a year ago with his family as his mother, the poet Airea D. Matthews, was hired to the faculty of Bryn Mawr College. The move was relatively smooth.
“Outside of Philadelphia, everyone thinks the Philly scene is very robust and together,” he said. “I’m very blessed to come to such a poetry-strong city like Philadelphia.”
Matthews immediately dove into the local poetry scene, wasting no time before getting involved with the Philadelphia Youth Poetry Movement(which competes strongly at Brave New Voices) and popping up at readings and slams.
“We were impressed by how quickly he has enmeshed himself in Philadelphia and become part of the Philadelphia youth poetry community,” said Andrew Nurkin, the library’s director of civic engagement, who sits on the selection committee. “It’s a pretty tight-knit group, and he’s been part of that since he moved here.”