The Academy of American Poets has announced the recipients of its inaugural Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellowships. The fellowships will award 13 poets who serve as poets laureate of states, cities, and counties across the U.S. with a combined $1,050,000 in "recognition of their literary merit and to support civic programs, which will take place over the next twelve months."
The fellowships are supported by funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which, in January, made a bequest of $2.2 million to the Academy, in order to fund two grant programs, of which the Laureates Fellowship is one. 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.
"Poets make immeasurable contributions. Their poems spark conversation and can help us learn about one another’s lives and unique experiences, which promotes greater understanding," Jennifer Benka, executive director of the Academy of American Poets, said in a statement. "We’re honored to help underwrite these talented poets who are leaders in their communities and who have been working on public projects for years with little or no support."
The recipients of the grants and their plans, as per the Academy, are as follows:
- Grace Cavalieri, Poet Laureate of Maryland, will receive $75,000, and plans to launch a podcast that will feature Maryland poets and have Maryland newspapers feature a monthly column with poems by Maryland poets.
- Molly Fisk, Poet Laureate of Nevada County, Calif., will receive $75,000, and plans to launch “California Fire & Water,” a statewide teaching, anthology, and public reading project addressing the state's recent devastating fires.
- Jaki Shelton Green, Poet Laureate of North Carolina, will receive $75,000, and plans to launch “Literary ChangeMakers,” which will support youth poets who are engaged artistically in civic and community activism, social justice, and youth leadership in over 100 counties in North Carolina.
- Fred L. Joiner, Poet Laureate of Carrboro, N.C., will receive $50,000, and plans to organize and grow the West End Poetry Festival; conduct writing workshops; establish a salon that would use a rotating roster of local eateries and cafes around the county as a venue; and support a retreat/residency/performance space.
- Robin Coste Lewis, Poet Laureate of Los Angeles, Calif., will receive $100,000, and plans to create and conduct a "Poetic Truths and Reconciliation Commission" for the City of Los Angeles, which will be a year-long experiment in redress, a series of programs (readings and conversations) that use the poetry from various LA histories/communities to engage the process of cultural, political and historical reconciliation.
- Claudia Castro Luna, Poet Laureate of Washington State, will receive $100,000, and plans to convene a series of poetry writing workshops and readings along the entire length of the Columbia River, from the point it enters the northeastern corner of Washington to its encounter with the Pacific Ocean, highlighting the importance of this natural resource.
- Ed Madden, Poet Laureate of Columbia, S.C., will receive $50,000, and plans to launch “Telling the Stories of the City,” a project that will incorporate local and youth voices, build on community-based workshops, and create an interactive storymap of the city.
- Adrian Matejka, Poet Laureate of Indiana, will receive $100,000, and plans to continue to grow “Poetry For Indy” workshops in Indiana cities with culturally diverse and economically underserved communities, and launch a digital archive serving both as a historical document of poetry in Indiana and as a resource for teachers.
- Jeanetta Calhoun Mish, Poet Laureate of Oklahoma, will receive $100,000, and plans to present poetry workshops for students in public schools in underserved communities and/or rural areas across the state.
- Paisley Rekdal, Poet Laureate of Utah, will receive $100,000, and plans to launch the website “Mapping Literary Utah,” which will contain videos, poems, and prose excerpts by writers that reside or have resided in Utah; and present a statewide poetry festival.
- Raquel Salas Rivera, Poet Laureate of Philadelphia, Pa., will receive $50,000, and plans to continue to organize the We Are Philly poetry festival and the monthly Lo nuestro Poetry Series, as well as facilitate community workshops in Philadelphia.
- Kim Shuck, Poet Laureate of San Francisco, Calif., will receive $75,000, and plans to launch “Seeds: Creating Poetic Activism,” a seed program for poets to grow writing and reading series/audiences in their own communities across the city.
- T.C. Tolbert, Poet Laureate of Tucson, Ariz., will receive $100,000, and plans to conduct a series of workshops with trans, non-binary, and queer (TNBQ) groups (primarily youth), and create a series of public installations highlighting TNBQ and LGBTQ+ voices and issues across Tucson.
Correction: This piece previously misspelled Kim Shuck's surname.