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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

11/27/23 pdf
November 27, 2023

Porsha Olayiwola’s impact on the Boston poetry scene

Boston has an incredibly rich literary history and is considered a staple location for American literature today. Having been home to dozens of literary icons and serving as the birthplace of  “Curious George,” Boston can’t get much more literary.

With the City of Boston’s official website boasting this city as home to iconic writers such as Sylvia Plath, Robert Frost, Malcolm X, Henry David Thoreau and Phillis Wheatley Peters, Boston now gets to add one more to the list–Porsha Olayiwola. 

Appointed Boston’s official Poet Laureate in 2019, Olayiwola was chosen for this position for her mesmerizing poetry and dedication to supporting young poets across Boston, including Boston’s Youth Poet Laureate and UMass Boston student, Alodra Bobadilla. Poet Laureate, a poet officially honored by a government for their achievements, is a flawless title for Olayiwola. 

Originally from Chicago, Olayiwola moved to Boston in 2010 for her education, where she earned her Master of Fine Arts in poetry from Emerson College. Since then, she has been an active member of Boston’s writing community. She is a well-accomplished poet, with her work being featured in publications such as The Boston Globe, Black Warrior Review and Essence Magazine. 

She was featured in events at both The Museum of Fine Arts and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, described on Olayiwola’s personal website, and has several notable awards under her belt. She was the 2014 Individual World Poetry Slam Champion and the 2015 National Poetry Slam Champion, as noted on The City of Boston’s official website. Videos of her slam poetry performances can be found on YouTube. 

Why she was chosen as Boston’s Poet Laureate, is partially because Olayiwola is avidly dedicated to uplifting the Boston writing community and creating spaces for young people to express themselves. She is the Artistic Director of MassLEAP, a non-profit organization that supports young artists, and is the co-founder of The House Slam, a slam poetry venue in Roxbury that, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and the venue’s unfortunate closing, held free events twice a month.

In 2021, she became the sole founder of the Roxbury Poetry Festival, a day-long celebration that honors Boston’s poet community and culminates in one Boston writer receiving a book contract [4]. She has a passion for people, and it shows through in her life and her work. 

Much of her writing centers around the historical and current issues faced by herself and the communities she is a part of, including pieces on racism, enslavement, struggles with identity, homophobia and misogyny. Other, more personal topics are present throughout her writing too, like her fatness, the deportation of her father, isolation and the mental health struggles of herself and family members. In 2019, she released her first full-length poetry collection, “I Shimmer Sometimes, Too,” a collection of 43 poems telling the story of Black womanhood. 

Her writing is absolutely captivating. Melding together afro-futurism, magical realism and surrealism, Olayiwola uses “a dangerous imagination that allows folks of the queer, woman and black diaspora to dream up their best selves, outlive their oppressors, and dictate their joy,” as written on The City of Boston’s official arts and culture website. 

In her lifetime of writing Olayiwola has created an incredible body of work. Her passion for writing is palpable. There is emotion and intention behind every aspect of her writing, like using spacing in published work to her advantage, leaving large spaces between words and phrases to represent isolation or disjointedness, or in her slam poetry performances, when she emphasizes her words with gestures or a raised voice. 

Her prose is moving, and will make any reader stop and reflect on themselves, their pasts and their futures. By engaging with her work, it becomes no surprise that Olayiwola stands as one of Boston’s most prominent poets. Her poetry collection is available from the publisher’s website, Button Poetry, as well as Amazon, Barnes & Noble and various local booksellers and libraries. Her other poems can be found on Olayiwola’s website, porshaolayiwola.com. 

  1. https://www.boston.gov/departments/arts-and-culture/boston-literary-cultural-district
  2. http://www.porshaolayiwola.com/bio
  3. https://www.boston.gov/departments/arts-and-culture/porsha-olayiwola
  4. https://www.roxburypoetryfestival.com/about