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Lisa Carrico

photo of Houston Poet Laureate Aris Kian Brown and Mayor Sylvester Turner

In celebration of National Poetry Month, Mayor Sylvester Turner is pleased to announce the new Houston Poet Laureate: Aris Kian Brown. Brown is the sixth poet laureate and the youngest to be chosen. 


The selection of Aris was announced last night at a reception hosted by the Mayor's Office of Cultural Affairs (MOCA) and the Houston Public Library (HPL) with remarks by Mayor Turner, Dr. Lawson, Dr. Irvin, and the 2021-23 Houston Poet Laureate, Emanuelee "Outspoken" Bean.  


“It is an honor to have selected Aris as the next Poet Laureate,” says Mayor Sylvester Turner. “She represents Houston’s literary future with her prophetic poetry. She will continue the Poet Laureates' hard work before her, inspire the City of Houston with her words, and bring out the poetry in everyone. My heart is gladdened to see the Houston Poet Laureate program continue to thrive and become a part of my legacy as Mayor of this Arts City.”


"Poetry, language, and building narrative power are all my life's work,” says Aris Kian Brown.  “As the next Poet Laureate, I am looking forward to being able to share my love for both community organizing and creative expression."


Brown was selected through a competitive process by a diverse group of poets, scholars, literary experts, and community representatives. The Committee consisted of Poet Laureate Emeritus, Emanuelee “Outspoken” Bean; Elizabeth Gregory of the University of Houston; Terri Hamm of Kindred Stories; Rich Levy of Inprint; Eloísa Pérez-Lozano of The Acentos Review; and César Ramos of Raspa Magazine. Non-voting members include Victor Ancheta of the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs (MOCA) and Justin Bogert with the Houston Public Library (HPL).


"I am so pleased to join our Mayor and Cultural Affairs Director, Necole Irvin, in congratulating Aris Kian Brown," said Houston Public Library Director, Dr. Rhea Brown Lawson. "We are excited to support Ms. Brown in engaging Houston’s diverse communities served by Houston Public Library through the exciting Poet Laureate program.”


Aris’ two-year term runs through April 2025. As Poet Laureate, she will work closely with MOCA and HPL to implement her Community Outreach Project, “Space for Us: Afrofuturism and the Poetic Imagination.” Brown will conduct a series of interviews with community members across Houston asking them questions like, “What do you hope Houston looks like tomorrow?” and then “stitch” a poem utilizing those answers, allowing everyone to see the poetry that is “already embedded in everyday people.” Brown will also translate the finished poem into the top spoken languages in the city.  


Necole S. Irvin, Director of Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs, is excited about Brown’s community project. “Aris will create a unique project that will speak to all residents of Houston which aligns with our office’s goal of equity, inclusion, and accessibility to the arts for all. The project is one that complements the goals of the Houston Poet Laureate program as well, which is to make poetry accessible to everyone.” 


About Aris Kian Brown
Aris Kian is a Houston enthusiast and student of abolitionists.  Her poems are published with Button Poetry, West Branch, Obsidian Lit, The West Review, and elsewhere. She is a 2019 Pushcart nominee, 2020 Best of the Net finalist, a 2021 Crystal Wilkinson Creative Writing Prize finalist, and a 2022 New Voices Contest finalist with Frontier Poetry. Kian is the 2022 recipient of the Inprint Marion Barthelme Prize in Creative Writing for Students with Service to the Houston Literary Community and ranks #2 in the 2023 Women of the World Poetry Slam. As an Inprint C. Glenn Cambor Fellow, she received her MFA from the University of Houston and currently serves as the Narrative Change & Media Manager at Houston in Action. She engages with the socio-mythological landscape of our metropolitan city in her poems and hates taking 610 West Loop.


About the Houston Poet Laureate Program
The City of Houston Poet Laureate Program celebrates Houston’s rich culture and diversity through the work of a poet who represents Houston by creating excitement about the written and spoken word as well as outreach activities, special programs, teaching, and individual works. The role of the Houston Poet Laureate is to stimulate poetic impulse, foster appreciation of poetry in all its forms, and serve Houston residents and visitors with expressions of culture through words. 

Lisa Carrico

Jerry Craft, the Newbery Award-winning author of New Kid, paid HPL a visit in June 2022 for our Summer Reading Author Series. Youth and Family Services Manager LaTrisha Milton sat down with our guest and talked about his upbringing, his experience in the spotlight, and Jordan Banks’ next adventure.

Photo of librarian LaTrisha Milton and author Jerry Craft

This Inside Voices Q&A Feature was originally published in the Link magazine's inaugural issue. Download your copy here


LaTrisha Milton: Can you describe the kind of research and practice that as an artist, goes into creating a graphic novel that happens to be rooted in personal experiences?

Jerry Craft: The first thing I did, was to look at my life, to see what was something everyone could relate to. And then, what was unique to my experiences, something a smaller audience would recognize, but only because they had never read about it before. I was born in Harlem, I grew up in Washington Heights, and then got sent to school in Riverdale going back and forth between two different worlds every day. I wrote and illustrated what I lived as a student, and then witnessed my sons for 10 years do the same. It’s authentic, especially for the kids of color who know what it’s like, and readers respond to that.


LM: As a response to censorship, Banned Books Week is an awareness campaign but also a call to action. Can you share an example or two of how your books being targeted served as motivation for readers?

JC: I first learned that New Kid had been banned in the school district in Texas because people on Twitter started DMing me. And then I got the updates: “This happened at the school board meeting last night, here’s a video.” I didn’t even want to watch the video, because the book is my baby. It’s like someone talking about one of your kids. On the anti-New Kid side, there was a petition to get the books taken out of the school library and to cancel my Zoom visit. But on the pro-New Kid side, there were maybe seven times as many people. Almost 3,000 people signed a petition to reinstate me. A bookstore in Katy, Brown Sugar Café and Books, helped raise money and they literally gave out free copies to teachers and kids and people that might not be able to see the book if it had been pulled. The school board, after a week, determined that the allegations were unfounded. I hate that it happened. The silver lining is that more kids saw it. I hate that I didn’t get that kind of news coverage winning the Newbery Award, the Coretta Scott King Award, and the Kirkus Prize as I did for being banned. Unfortunately, sometimes we celebrate adversity more than we celebrate someone that really worked hard to get to where they are.


LM: New Kid and Class Act are not instructional books, so what are your thoughts on how they promote equity in children’s literature nonetheless?

JC: I don’t know what you as a woman in the public library system, or women in corporate America, go through, but I know it’s different than what I have gone through. Shouldn’t you be allowed to tell your story? And if you tell your story, is it up to me to say, “That’s sexist! That’s anti-male!” When I hear about the glass ceiling, women getting paid $.75 on the dollar to male counterparts, I examine myself, and consider the advantages I have as a male, even as a Black male. But race isn’t done that way, it’s not handled the same. You don’t have that same equity and balance. Jordan Banks in New Kid says, “so it’s OK that this stuff happens to me, it’s just not OK for me to talk about it.” And that, I think is what it comes down to. Instead of someone saying, “wow, what can we do to make our African American kids or kids of color feel more comfortable?” It’s “what can we do to now silence them so that they can continue to be uncomfortable.” At the end of the day, do they really care?


LM: It is said that books are windows and mirrors. Because September is Library Card Month, finish this sentence: Library cards are... 

JC: Library cards are the passport to get your mind to travel to other cities, other states, other countries, even other universes.


LM: What new project or projects do you have coming up?

JC: I am proud to say that the third (and possibly final) book in the series is finished and is scheduled to be released on April 4th, 2023. It’s called School Trip and will follow Jordan and Drew and their friends as they travel to Paris, France. I’ve never seen kids of color portrayed as world travelers in books. So my goal, what I am obsessed with, is if I haven’t seen it, I’m going to do it. And I think it’s the best book of the three. I put a lot of work into it and did not shy away from anything. I’ve never let any of the criticism deter me. Instead, I let the love and support that I’ve received from the first two books inspire me. And I think you’re really going to like it.

Lisa Carrico

July 5, 2022 - August 13, 2022

Julia Ideson Building | Exhibit Hall 

550 McKinney St., 77002 | 832-393-1313

Opening to the public on July 5, 2022, at the historic Julia Ideson Building, is Young at Art: A Selection of Caldecott Book Illustrations. This exhibition includes original artwork from Caldecott Medal recipients and “runner-up” Honor books, as well as other illustrations by award-winning artists.

Since 1938, the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, has recognized the significant impact of art on early reading experiences, awarding the Caldecott Medal to artists for excellence in this area.

The first Caldecott Award recipient Dorothy P. Lathrop (1938), two-time winner Chris Van Allsburg (1982, 1986), and Maurice Sendak (1964), whose work Where the Wild Things Are, like Van Allsburg’s Jumanji and The Polar Express, was adapted for the big screen, are part of the exhibit. Their illustrations are widely recognized not only as artistic classics in children’s literature but also as the source of countless beloved memories for the young and young at heart.

HPL curator, Christina Grubitz was pleased to showcase items from the Houston Metropolitan Research Center collection, including copies of rare illustrations by Salvador Dali of Alice in Wonderland, unrelated to the exhibit, but nonetheless a remarkable example of children’s literature housed by the HMRC. “The Caldecott exhibit complements the Norma Meldrum Juvenile Collection for the study of children’s literature from the 1800s to the 1970s that can be explored in the room of the same name and speaks to the significance of HPL hosting this exhibit.”

The Caldecott Collection of Children’s Book Illustrations is part of the permanent collection of the Wichita Falls Museum of Art at Midwestern State University, Wichita Falls, Texas. The museum has collected children’s book illustrations for more than fifty years.

The exhibit will be on view from July 5, 2022, through August 13, 2022 at the Julia Ideson Building Exhibit Hall, located at 550 McKinney St., 77002.

The exhibit is in partnership with ExhibitsUSA, a national division of Mid-America Arts Alliance with the Texas Commission on the Arts and The National Endowment for the Arts.

The exhibit is free and open to the public. Exhibit dates are subject to change.

Field is required.