The Poetry Foundation names a Young People’s Poet Laureate every two years. In 2015, the $25,000 laureate title has been awarded to Jacqueline Woodson.
“Jacqueline Woodson is an elegant, daring, and restlessly innovative,” says Poetry Foundation president Robert Polito.“So many writers settle on a style and a repertoire of gestures and subjects, but Woodson, like her characters, is always in motion and always discovering something fresh. As she once told an interviewer, ‘If you have no road map, you have to create your own.’ Her gifts, adventurousness and generosity, suggest she will be a terrific young people’s poet laureate.”
Woodson was born in Columbus, Ohio, and grew up in Greenville, South Carolina, and Brooklyn, New York. She is the author of more than 30 books for children and young adults, including From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun (1995), which was named a Coretta Scott King Honor Book and won a Jane Addams Children’s Book Award; Miracle’s Boys (2000), which won the 2001 Coretta Scott King Award and a Los Angeles Times Book Prize; Hush (2002), a National Book Award finalist; Locomotion (2003), also a National Book Award finalist; Coming on Home Soon (2004), a Caldecott Honor Book and a Booklist Editors’ Choice; and Behind You (2004), included in the New York Public Library’s list of best Books of the Teen Age. Three of Woodson’s books have been named Newbery Honor Books: Show Way (2005), Feathers (2007), and After Tupac & D Foster (2008). Her recent books include the young adult novel Beneath a Meth Moon (2012) and Brown Girl Dreaming (2014), a novel in verse about Woodson’s family and segregation in the South, which won a National Book Award and was named a Newbery Honor Book.
In an op-ed for the New York Times, Woodson described how she wrote the book: “As I interviewed relatives in both Ohio and Greenville, S.C., I began to piece together the story of my mother’s life, my grandparents’ lives and the lives of cousins, aunts and uncles. These stories, and the stories I had heard throughout my childhood, were told with the hope that I would carry on this family history and American history, so that those coming after me could walk through the world as armed as I am.”
Woodson was awarded a Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults, a St. Katharine Drexel Award, and an Anne V. Zarrow Award for Young Readers’ Literature. Jonathan Demme is adapting Beneath a Meth Moon for the screen. Woodson currently lives in Brooklyn with her family.
“Woodson’s lyrical, deeply empathetic work is enthralling to all readers, making her the ideal ambassador for young people’s literature,” said Katherine Litwin, Poetry Foundation library director. “We couldn’t be more honored and excited to have her join us for the next two years in this important role.”
In recognition of Woodson’s achievements, the Poetry Foundation’s web site is featuring her in a Poetry off the Shelf podcast and an interview.