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City of Asylum Poet Laureate of Allegheny County

The City of Asylum Poet Laureate of Allegheny County is awarded to a poet with a significant history of published work and public performance, experience with civic engagement, and vision for the Laureateship. The honoree receives a prize of $2,500, will participate in All Pittsburghers are Poets free poetry programming, and develop a project to engage with residents of Allegheny County with the support of City of Asylum during their term of service.


City of Asylum Poet Laureate of Allegheny County, 2020-22
Celeste Gainey

Celeste Gainey is the author of the poetry collection, the GAFFER, (Arktoi Books/Red Hen Press), cited by O, The Oprah Magazine as one of “8 New Books of Poetry to Savor.” Her chapbook, In the land of speculation & seismography (Seven Kitchens Press), was runner-up for the prestigious Robin Becker Prize. She has been a Hedgebrook Writer in Residence as well as a presenting poet at the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival. Graduating with a BFA in Film & Television from the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, as well as earning an MFA in Creative Writing/Poetry from Carlow University, Gainey was the first woman to be admitted to the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees as a gaffer, and has spent many years working with light in film and architecture. 

Read Celeste’s poem “in the days of early polyester.”


Jill Bialosky served as the judge for the City of Asylum Poet Laureate of Allegheny County. She is a poet, novelist, essayist and editor. Her poems and essays have appeared in The New YorkerThe Atlantic MonthlyHarper’sO MagazineThe Kenyon ReviewHarvard Review, and Paris Review among others. She is an Executive Editor and Vice President at W. W. Norton & Company.


City of Asylum is grateful for support from the following partner:

This project received a RADical ImPAct Grant from the Allegheny Regional Asset District (RAD).

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