Charleston City Council Tuesday night named Asiah Mae to be Charleston’s second poet laureate.
“Being named poet laureate, it’s kind of surreal,” Mae said in a Tuesday interview. “I’ve always been a community organizer and cultural worker, so this feels like a natural extension of that work.”
Mae, originally from Columbus, Georgia, is a writer, producer, performing poet, community curator and organizer who moved to Charleston in 2010.
Charleston Mayor John Tecklenberg appointed the first-ever poet laureate of Charleston, Marcus Amaker, in 2016. Amaker worked as an ambassador of poetry and established the annual Free Verse Festival during his six-year tenure, which ended in June.
When Amaker stepped down, the City of Charleston’s Cultural Affairs Office posted an open call for the position. A committee of educators, poets and community leaders selected three candidates to interview before choosing Mae for the position.
“I was super-impressed by the people who applied,” Amaker said. “Asiah was among a lot of wonderful candidates.”
Amaker passes the baton after three two-year terms. He said he feels “peaceful” about the transition.
“The city is in good hands with Asiah. She really is a poet for the people,” Amaker said. “Her energy is perfect for what this title needs and what this city needs.”
Radical healing and love, joy as resistance, community, family, queerness, blackness and sustainability are all themes Mae incorporates into her poetry, she said.
“I was a very angry child,” Mae said. “I realized growing up and especially in my early 20s that anger is necessary, but not sustainable. I had to center healing and love. That is what I continue to write about and speak about.”
Mae said she hopes to put out more collaborative projects during her term as poet laureate and to put poetry in more spaces.
“Community is huge for me,” Mae said. “When it comes to art, especially in this city, sometimes people make art for art’s sake … I want to inspire and push people to really think about the art they’re creating, who they are creating it with and how we can make it for the community that exists here.”
“It’s important to me that artists can live here and thrive here,” she said at the City Council Meeting on Tuesday evening. “So let’s get to work.”
- To read some of Mae’s poems, click here.
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