The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has donated the funding for two grants to the Academy of American Poets, totaling $2.2 million. The funds, the AAP said, will be used to "enable the work of several poets serving in civic Poets Laureate positions," as well as to support more than 20 poetry organizations" who comprise the Poetry Coalition, which was founded in 2016.
“Poetry provides the opportunity to reflect on language and meaning, as well as to learn about ourselves and one another. These extraordinary grants from the Mellon Foundation will enable us to offer impactful support to poets who are involved in the civic life of the communities they live in, and to help strengthen a network of poetry organizations across the country that present, publish, and promote poets,” said Jennifer Benka, executive director of the Academy of American Poets.
The first grant will launch a new Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellowship program, which will honor poets laureate of states, cities, U.S. territories, and/or tribal nations. The goal is to enable these poets laureate, whose positions rarely come with an honorarium or pay of any kind, to undertake "innovative projects that will engage their fellow residents and address important issues with poetry."
The AAP expects to provide at least $1 million, in the form of $50,000 - $100,000 awards, to a number of poets laureate this coming April. (In 1996, the AAP founded National Poetry Month, which takes place each April.) Guidelines for the Poets Laureate Fellowships will be posted on Poets.org, and applications will be accepted through March 3.
The other grant will support the work of the Poetry Coalition, a national alliance founded in 2016 of more than 20 poetry organizations across the country that work collaboratively to promote poetry. The grant will enable the Poetry Coalition to continue to host joint programming on "a theme of social importance," offered each March, including this coming March. Programs include publications, panels, readings, and other public events. The grant will also allow for the creation of a pilot fellowship program that will place individuals in part-time, paid positions at select Poetry Coalition member organizations.
“Across the country, local poets laureate and poetry organizations enhance creativity, channel civic understanding, and help communities grapple with important issues,” Mellon Foundation president Elizabeth Alexander said in a statement. “Despite the recognition and esteem received from their communities, state and city poets laureate often do not receive resources commensurate with their creative output and public service. I hope that Mellon’s support will remind us of the power of language and human exchange that poetry uniquely offers.”