International House Philadelphia, 3701 Chestnut Street
Rage. Love. Revenge. Follow Yolanda Wisher as she charts the fantastical journeys of Pirate Jenny.
Pirate Jenny, the vengeful heroine dreamed up in Kurt Weill’s Threepenny Opera, sails into the 21st century as a modern-day poet and blueswoman. Yolanda Wisher, Philadelphia’s Poet Laureate, imagines this retelling, inspired by Nina Simone’s powerful 1964 cover of the iconic song. Musing on black love and rage, civil rights, and the meaning of womanhood, Wisher’s tour-de-force performance travels the continents of spoken word and song, with first-mate and double bassist Mark Palacio at her side.
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.
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.