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Philadelphia names first poet laureate

By Ross Levitt, CNN
updated 3:43 PM EST, Thu December 29, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Sonia Sanchez becomes Philadelphia's poet laureate
  • Mayor made the announcement during a morning ceremony at City Hall
  • The 77-year-old writer and activist will serve a two-year term

(CNN) -- A Pennsylvania city known for its cheesesteaks, sports fans and Colonial history now has something else it can boast: a poet laureate.

Despite Philadelphia's long literary history, from Benjamin Franklin to 19th-century abolitionist Charlotte Forten Grimke and beyond, it had never before bestowed the literary title.

But that changed during a ceremony at City Hall on Thursday when Mayor Michael Nutter announced in a statement that longtime poet Sonia Sanchez was named the city's official poet laureate.

Sanchez, who has been widely seen as the city's unofficial poet laureate, has authored at least 18 books, including "Homecoming," "We A BaddDDD People," "Love Poems," "I've Been a Women" and "A Sound Investment."

The 77-year-old writer and activist will serve a two-year term and is tasked with presiding over notable city events and performing poetry readings throughout the City of Brotherly Love.

"Ms. Sanchez exemplifies the role a poet can play in helping to define a city and helping its citizens discover beauty," Nutter said in the statement.

"What an honor!" Sanchez said in a statement. "I accept this position as Poet Laureate to remind us how poetry makes us remember the best of ourselves and others. How it keeps us constantly confronting the most important question of this twenty-first century: What does it mean to be human?"

The national poet laureate is Philip Levine, appointed by the Library of Congress in August at the age of 83.

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