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All Pittsburghers are Poets

City of Asylum's RADical ImPAct project celebrates poetry in Pittsburgh with its new program, "All Pittsburghers Are Poets."


City of Asylum


Grant Amount




Pittsburgh has long been a home for poetry, and with its project All Pittsburghers are Poets, City of Asylum continues this tradition by establishing the first Poet Laureate Program for Allegheny County. The four Poet Laureate categories are:

  • City of Asylum Poet Laureate of Allegheny County
  • Youth Poet Laureate of Allegheny County
  • Emerging Poet of Allegheny County 
  • American Sign Language Poet Laureate

In addition, from May 2020 through April 2021, poems by residents of Allegheny County of all ages and levels of experience were published weekly at Sampsonia Way Magazine.


In July 2020, City of Asylum announced the four inaugural Poets Laureate of Allegheny County. Learn about them here. 

This project has been completed, and because of the success of the inaugural Poet Laureate program, City of Asylum will continue the program.

Accomplishments of the program include:

  • 31 free poetry events featuring the Poets Laureate with a total attendance of 1,140.
  • 51 poems by Allegheny County residents published via newsletter to 13,000 and online at Sampsonia Way Magazine.
  • Three poetry workshop series launched.
  • Three in-person workshops in outdoor venues (Sampsonia Way Tent and Alphabet Reading Garden) led by three local poets.

The second Poet Laureate of Allegheny County is Doralee Brooks, who holds an MEd from the University of Pittsburgh and an MFA from Carlow University. She is Professor Emerita of Developmental Studies at the Community College of Allegheny County. Doralee's poems have appears in Voices from the Attic, Uppagus, Dos Passos Review, Pittsburgh Poetry Review and Paterson Literary Review.

The second Youth Poet of Allegheny County is Danielle Obisie-Orlu, a Nigerian-American student of International Relations at the University of Pittsburgh. Four Youth Poet Ambassadors have also been recognized: Ekow Opoku Dakwa (Allderdice HS), Aja Lynn (Hampton HS), Phoenix Thomas (Westinghouse Arts Academy), and Shivani Watson (Allderdice HS). During their terms of service (August 2021-July 2022), they participated in cohort meetings, writing workshops, readings, and other public events. Listen to the 5 Youth Poet honorees perform on Saturday Light Brigade's Youth Express via the program website here.

Inaugural Emerging Poet Laureate Paloma Sierra led the creation of two video poems during her term of service. She continues to receive accolades from international film festivals, including the Grand Prize from Puerto Rico's ¡Tú Cuentas! Cine Youth Fest. On the prize winning video poem "I am Soil Breaking Off," Paloma states, "As a born-and-raised Puerto Rican who has also lived in the diaspora, I am well aware of the tensions between those who live on the island and outside of it...It is my hope that, in the future, we can acknowledge that Puerto Ricans can exist, thrive, and grow both in our beautiful island and outside of it.” (article)

Mj Shahen completed her project as ASL Poet Laureate of Allegheny County with an ASL Slam live online and in-person at Alphabet City on November 16, 2021 with fellow Deaf artists Verne E. Taylor, Jr. and John Noschese. Rewatch for free here.  

Celeste Gainey's call for submissions for the zine Eco-Justice for All! closed with 60 submissions! The zine was published in March 2022 at the close of Celeste's term of service as City of Asylum's Poet Laureate of Allegheny County. A frequent performer in virtual poetry readings since June 2020, Celeste is also serving as an advisor for the nomination and application process for the second City of Asylum Poet Laureate of Allegheny County.


Pittsburgh Institute for Nonprofit Journalism - August 28, 2022

The Duquesne Duke - February 18, 2021

Pittsburgh Current - July 21, 2020

Point Park News - July 10, 2020

Kidsburgh - July 6, 2020

WESA - February 17, 2020

NEXTpittsburgh - January 29, 2020