Trapeta Mayson carries on the City of Brotherly Love’s tradition of poetry by serving as the current Poet Laureate to the city. The ‘Poet Laureate’ is a civic position within Philadelphia whose role is to act as the “ambassador of poetry”. While there is no formal job description, it is expected that the Poet Laureate will actively promote literacy and encourage expression in the city.
Trapeta Mayson was born in Liberia but immigrated to the United States with her family in 1975 when she was just eight years old. Growing up in the North Philadelphia and Germantown neighborhoods, her subsequent education would prove to essentially be a tour of the surrounding Philadelphia area. First, she studied political science as an undergraduate at Temple University. Next, she received a Masters of Social Work from Bryn Mawr College. Additionally, she holds an MBA from the Villanova University School of Business.
Those diverse studies provide a brief picture of Trapeta’s eclectic interests. She’s proven to be multifaceted with her art as well, notably collaborating with jazz guitarist Monette Sudler since the year 2000. Their joined project, titled Sisters in Music, is a spoken and sung word/music collage that aims to provide uplifting messages to those in need.
Mayson’s poetry is deeply informed by both her experience as an immigrant and a social worker. Her immigration experience figures not only in the content of some of her work but also in the form, as she incorporates Liberian English as a voice against oppression. The fight against oppressive forces is a constant theme in Mayson’s work as she offers an enlightening perspective on issues of gender, race, and mental illness.
It is notable that Trapeta Mayson’s selection as the Poet Laureate to Philadelphia was as much due to her artistry as it was her laudable social work within the city. She tirelessly works to educate those around her, conducting poetry and writing workshops with marginalized groups such as LGBTQ communities, undocumental immigrants, incarcerated people, and survivors of domestic abuse.
This past year, she launched the Healing Verse Poetry Hot Line, a toll-free telephone line that offers callers a 90-second poem by a Philadelphia-connected poet. Mayson expects Healing Verse to “offer a glimmer of hope because these things impact us spiritually and mentally”.
Find out more on Trapeta Mayson here.