Poet Laureate 2020

David Gaines

David Gaines is a writer, actor and educator born and raised in uptown Philadelphia. As a product of a traditional baptist household and a child of hip-hop culture, Dave uses his poetry to analyze and unpack how the performance of religion and gender intersect within his personal life and the greater Black community.

In 2017 he graduated with a BA in English from the Pennsylvania State University, where he became the first poet to perform at the IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon (THON), won Best Poet at the Penn State Music Awards, and performed for household names such as MC Lyte and Nia Long. One year later he won multiple championship titles including 2017 College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational (CUPSI) Champion, 2018 Fuze Poetry Slam Champion, 2018 Philly Pigeon Champion, and ranked 4th in the nation in the 2018 Individual World Poetry Slam. In 2019, he toured over 20 colleges nationwide and began coaching the University of Pennsylvania’s 2020 CUPSI team.

On any given day, you can find Dave working on his debut chapbook, soft boy, or trying to break into the elusive world of professional yo-yo.

fine china by David Gaines

This collection took me back to childhood Sundays spent balancing duty and passion on the pews of a church. These poems slay demons of toxic masculinity, racism, and generational trauma. In this work, there is a yearning to be as free from social constructs as the goldfish that has leapt out of the bowl. And in the yearning is a voice that is coming home as much as it is breaking away.  

Yolanda Wisher

2020 Celebrity Judge