Photo by Ryan Collerd. Courtesy of The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage. 

Photo by Ryan Collerd. Courtesy of The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage. 

Yolanda Wisher is the current Poet Laureate of Philadelphia, a distinction given to one talented poet, who is chosen as a leader in their discipline and is dedicated to advancing their art form and the city’s poetry community. During her two-year term, Wisher has engaged with the city of Philadelphia through events, community service activities, speaking, and has served as a mentor for the city’s Youth Poet Laureate. A champion of poetry and education, Wisher uses her platform to speak on the African American experience and the complexities of womanhood. Wisher has been a beneficiary of and a force within Philadelphia’s poetry scene for the past two decades, while promoting poetry as a public, healing, and activist art.

Wisher holds a B.A. in English and Black Studies from Lafayette College and an M.A. in Creative Writing/Poetry from Temple University. The author of Monk Eats an Afro (Hanging Loose Press, 2014) and the co-editor of the anthology Peace is a Haiku Song (City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, 2013), Wisher taught high school English for ten years at Germantown Friends School and founded and directed the Germantown Poetry Festival, a neighborhood event highlighting the talents of local teens from 2006 to 2010. She later served as the Director of Art Education for the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program from 2010 to 2015, catalyzing the organization’s teaching artist faculty model, school and juvenile justice partnerships, and youth entrepreneurship program.

From 2014 to 2016, she worked as a Cultural Agent and Chief Rhapsodist of Wherewithal for the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture, a grassroots action network inciting creativity and social imagination to shape a culture of empathy, equity, and belonging.

A sought after teaching artist and consultant, Wisher shares her poetry and pedagogy at schools and universities and leads workshops and residencies with K-12 students and educators, seniors, and homeless and incarcerated groups. She has curated groundbreaking poetry events for organizations such as The Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Rosenbach Museum and Library, and Philadelphia Contemporary. Wisher performs a unique blend of poetry and song with her bands The Quick Fixx and The Afroeaters, and her writings have been featured widely in a variety of media including GOOD Magazine, PennSound, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Philadelphia Citizen, Contemporary Black Canvas, Harriet the Blog, PoetryNow, Obsidian: Literature & Arts in the African Diaspora, Ploughshares, and CBC Radio. Her work has been commissioned by Historic Germantown, First Person Arts, the Institute for Contemporary Art, and the Philadelphia Jazz Project.

Wisher was the inaugural Montgomery County Pennsylvania Poet Laureate (1999), a Cave Canem Fellow (1999-2001), Leeway Art and Change Award Grantee (2008), Center for Performance and Civic Practice Catalyst Initiative Grantee (2015-2016), Hedgebrook Writer-in-Residence (2016), Pew Fellow (2015), and Knight Foundation Cities Challenge Finalist (2017).

She lives in Germantown.