Boston's New Youth Poet Laureate named
Mayor Michelle Wu and the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture, in collaboration with the Boston Public Library, 826 Boston, MassLEAP, GrubStreet, and Urban Word, today announced Anjalequa Leynneyah Verona Birkett has been named the City of Boston’s next Youth Poet Laureate.
“Young people don’t just represent the promise of tomorrow, they’re leaders in our neighborhoods and communities today,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “Anjalequa is one of those leaders and I can’t wait to see how she elevates Boston youth voices as Boston’s Youth Poet Laureate.”
Anjalequa was born and raised in Roxbury before moving to Roslindale. She is currently 18 years old and attends the John D. O’Bryant School of Math & Science, where through the 826 Writers Room, she has been given a space and community to truly hone and admire her love and technique for writing and poetry. Her cleverness and artistry stems from her own life experiences and wanting to connect with those around her. She has volunteered with organizations such as A-VOYCE and BARCC to spread awareness of social issues that impact her community and help make and be the blueprint for change. In everything she does she makes it her mission to express the feelings of people around her and her own, and create a bright, and better future ahead.
“I will use this opportunity and platform to connect with Boston youth through poetry and the arts, find what issues they want to change and how they want to improve their community, and be the voice that makes it happen in my own way,” said Youth Poet Laureate Anjalequa Leynneyah Verona Birkett. “I also want the youth of Boston and Boston residents to find their own voice through poetry and the arts by holding spaces and events for them to come together, learn, give back and improve, as I make myself into a strong representative. I aim to make my time and work in this role impactful, inspiring, loud and true.”
Anjalequa was named the next Youth Poet Laureate at a showcase at the Boston Public Library, where she read some of her original poetry alongside several Youth Poet Laureate finalists. The following individuals were named Youth Poet Laureate finalists:
- Fernando Medina, Fenway High School
- Yolanda Oliveira, EMK Academy for Health Careers
- Ash Albert, Boston Latin School
- Megan Li, Boston Latin School
- Atticus Duck, John D. O'Bryant School of Math & Science
- Maya McNeill, Wellesley High School
- Erin Kim, Phillips Academy
- Valerie Cameron, Boston Latin Academy
- Natasha Dayvonna Mays, Boston Latin Academy
Each youth poet received several books, including a copy of former Boston Youth Poet Laureate Alondra Bobadilla’s debut collection of poetry With Clipped Wings, and a summer scholarship for a writing class at GrubStreet. Anjalequa will receive a $2,000 annual stipend as Youth Poet Laureate, and will also publish her own collection of poetry. She will be mentored by Poet Laureate Porsha Olayiwola while she is in this role.
“It has been thrilling to see Alondra Bobadilla organize, teach and lead as our inaugural Youth Poet Laureate. I think what's even more exciting is the passing of the role onto our second laureate, Anjalequa Birkett. We were impressed by Birkett’s poetry, pose, and spirit,” said Poet Laureate Porsha Olayiwola. “What was most inspiring, however, is that she was a 2019 youth poet laureate finalist. She is in the unique position to be a pillar of perseverance for her peers, for the city, and for poetry. I am excited to see how she continues to enliven her dreams while carving herself into the city’s literary tradition.”
The Boston Youth Poet Laureate program (BYPL) was created in cooperation with the national youth literary organization, Urban Word, local youth literary leaders, the Boston Public Library, MassLEAP, and 826 Boston to promote appreciation for poetry. Similar to the Poet Laureate's civic challenge, the Youth Poet Laureate is tasked with inspiring deeper engagement in the written and spoken word. Alondra Bobadilla was named Boston’s inaugural Youth Poet Laureate in January 2020.
“The Youth Poet Laureate program centers youth voices in civic life while expanding Boston’s connection to poetry,” said Kara Elliott-Ortega, Chief of Arts and Culture. “Alondra has done amazing work over the past several years, especially during the pandemic, and we’re confident that Anjalequa will continue keeping people inspired and engaged through poetry.”
To learn more about the Poet Laureate and Youth Poet Laureate programs, visit boston.gov/poetry.