Yolanda Wisher’s Rent Party at the Rosenbach

Registration Price Qty
General Admissionshow details + $25.00 (USD)  
Student Admissionshow details + $15.00 (USD)  
Member Admissionshow details + $15.00 (USD)  
Delancey Society Admissionshow details + $0.00 (USD)  

Date / Time

  • February 27, 2019
    6:00 pm - 7:30 pm


2008-2010 Delancey Place, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 19103, United States

Oak & Ivy

The Oak & Ivy Edition explores the complex lives and work of married poets Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906) and Alice Dunbar Nelson (1875-1935). Dunbar was known affectionately and notoriously for writing in traditional English and African American dialect. Oak and Ivy, his first collection of poems was published in 1893 and is part of the Rosenbach’s collection. He sold copies of the book to passengers during his shift as an elevator operator, and was later dubbed “The Poet Laureate of the Negro Race” by Booker T. Washington. Nelson, a poet and journalist, was one of the few African Americans who earned a college degree in the late 19th century. Her two-year correspondence with Dunbar led to a secret marriage in 1898. Her affairs with other women, documented in her diaries, deeply unsettled and infuriated Dunbar to the point of physical violence. Their marriage was marked by illness, depression and alcoholism. The event title Oak & Ivy is a metaphor for their tumultuous union and their enduring creative legacies.

Featured Poets

Composer-poet Janice Lowe, current Fellow in Poetics and Poetic Practice for the Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing at the University of Pennsylvania and author of Leaving CLE poems of nomadic dispersal (Miami University Press).

Poet and spoken word artist Kirwyn Sutherland, co-founder of the Modern Lit workshop series for poets of color and author of a forthcoming chapbook from Thread Makes Blanket Press.

Yolanda Wisher is the author of Monk Eats an Afro (Hanging Loose Press, 2014) and the co-editor of Peace is a Haiku Song (Philadelphia Mural Arts, 2013). Wisher performs a unique blend of poetry and song with her band The Afroeaters, and her work has been featured in a variety of media including Gathering Ground: A Reader Celebrating Cave Canem’s First Decade, GOOD Magazine, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Contemporary Black Canvas, Radio Times, PoetryNOW, Ploughshares, and CBC Radio. A Pew Fellow & Hedgebrook Writer-in-Residence, Wisher was named the inaugural Poet Laureate of Montgomery County Pennsylvania in 1999 and the third Poet Laureate of Philadelphia in 2016. Wisher taught high school English for a decade, served as Director of Art Education for Philadelphia Mural Arts, and founded and directed the Germantown Poetry and Outbound Poetry Festivals. She has led workshops and curated events in partnership with the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Free Library of Philadelphia, and U.S. Department of Arts & Culture. Wisher was the 2017-2018 CPCW Fellow in Poetics and Poetic Practice at the University of Pennsylvania, and she is currently the Curator of Spoken Word at Philadelphia Contemporary.

About Yolanda Wisher’s Rent Party at the Rosenbach

Yolanda Wisher’s Rent Party at the Rosenbach invokes the tradition of the rent party dating back to the Harlem Renaissance, when communal gatherings of artists fed an outpouring of blues, jazz, and poetry. Rent parties were some of the original house parties. Guests would pay a small fee for homespun food, prohibited drink and live entertainment. Sometimes a piano was hauled up a few flights of stairs for the occasion. While they were designed to help the host pay their rent with the help of a few friends spreading the word, the ancestral rent parties were also incubators of cultural innovation.

Curated and hosted by Philadelphia Poet Laureate Emerita Yolanda Wisher, each rent party features readings by two contemporary poets from different schools of thought and craft in addition to a performance Wisher and her band The Afroeaters, reviving a vintage work of jazz poetry or premiering a new work inspired by the Rosenbach’s collection. The series is an ongoing love letter to the literary past, often focusing on a writer whose work has been lost, forgotten, or misunderstood. Previous rent parties have highlighted the poetry of The Black Opals collective, a group of young African Americans writing in Philadelphia during the 1920s; the legacy of Phillis Wheatley, the first published African American poet; and Ask Your Mama, a jazz poem composed by Langston Hughes.

Rent party guests are invited to sip a signature cocktail as they witness literary and musical performances. They can purchase books or CDs by the featured artists and get them signed in person. Seating is limited; advance registration is strongly recommended.

About Performances at the Rosenbach

From adaptations of beloved classics from page to stage to interactive performances inspired by great literature, experience theatrical arts in an intimate setting.

  • Seating is limited; advance registration is strongly recommended
  • This event is 21+
  • A specialty cocktail is included with admission