The following thirteen poets were named Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellows. Together they received more than $1 million, made possible by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, in recognition of their literary excellence and to help support their civic projects. Each had served as a Poet Laureate of their state, city, or county and, over the course of their year-long fellowship, addressed issues important to their communities through poetry. Read more about these awards. Read more about these awards.
Claudia Castro Luna was born in El Salvador. She received a BA in Anthropology from the University of California, Irvine, an MA in Urban Planning from University of California, Los Angeles, and an MFA in poetry from Mills College. She is the author of Killing Marias (Two Sylvias Press, 2017) and the chapbook This City (Floating Bridge Press, 2016). She currently teaches at Seattle University.
Castro Luna convened One River, Many Voices, 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, to highlight the importance of this natural resource.
Grace Cavalieri received a BS in Education from New Jersey College and an MA in creative writing from Goddard University. Her most recent collection is Other Voices, Other Lives (Alan Squire Publishing, 2017).
Cavalieri launched the podcast series The Poet & The Poem, featuring Maryland poets and worked with Maryland newspapers on monthly columns featuring poems by Maryland poets.
Molly Fisk received a BA in Folklore and Mythology from Radcliffe College/ Harvard University and an MBA from the Simmons College Graduate School of Management. She is the author of four poetry collections, most recently The More Difficult Beauty (Hip Pocket Press, 2010).
Fisk launched “California Fire & Water,” a statewide teaching, anthology, and public reading project to address the state’s recent devastating fires.
Jaki Shelton Green is the author of eight collections, most recently I Want to Undie You (Jacar Press, 2017). She currently teaches Documentary Poetry at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University.
Green launched “Literary ChangeMakers,” which supported youth poets engaged artistically in civic and community activism, social justice, and youth leadership in over 100 counties in North Carolina.
Fred L. Joiner received an MFA in creative writing from Lesley University. He is the author of BLOOD / SOUND (Central Square Press, 2019). He is the cofounder of The Center for Poetic Thought in Washington, D.C.
Joiner organized the West End Poetry Festival; conducted writing workshops; established a salon that would use a rotating roster of local eateries and cafes around the county as venues; and supported a retreat/residency/performance space.
Robin Coste Lewis was born in Compton, California. She received a PhD in Creative Writing and Literature from the University of Southern California, an MFA in Creative Writing from New York University, and an MTS from the Divinity School at Harvard University. She is the author of Voyage of the Sable Venus (Alfred A. Knopf, 2015), winner of the National Book Award in poetry. Lewis is the Writer-in-Residence at the University of Southern California.
Lewis created the “Poetic Truths and Reconciliation Commission” for the City of Los Angeles, a year-long experiment in redress, a series of programs (readings and conversations) that used poetry from various LA histories/communities to engage the process of cultural, political and historical reconciliation.
Ed Madden was raised in Newport, Arkansas. He received a BA in English and French from Harding University, a BS in Biblical Studies from the Institute for Christian Studies, an MA in English from the University of Texas at Austin, and a PhD in literature from the University of Texas at Austin. His most recent collections include Ark (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2016), Nest (Salmon Poetry, 2014), and Prodigal: Variations (Lethe Press, 2011). He is a professor of English and director of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at the University of South Carolina, where he teaches Irish literature and creative writing.
Madden launched “Telling the Stories of the City,” a project that incorporated local and youth voices, built on community-based workshops, and created an interactive story map of the city.
Adrian Matejka was born in Nuremberg, Germany, and grew up in California and Indiana. He received a BA from Indiana University and an MFA from Southern Illinois University–Carbondale. He is the author of Map to the Stars (Penguin, 2017); The Big Smoke (Penguin, 2013), which was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize; Mixology (Penguin, 2009), which was a winner of the 2008 National Poetry Series; and The Devil’s Garden (Alice James Books, 2003), which received the 2002 New York/New England Book Award.
Matejka conducted “Poetry For Indy” workshops in Indiana cities with culturally diverse and economically underserved communities, and launched a digital archive that serves both as a historical document of poetry in Indiana and as a resource for teachers.
Jeanetta Calhoun Mish was born in Hobart, Oklahoma. She received a BA and an MFA in English from the University of Texas-Permian Basin and a PhD in English from the University of Oklahoma. Mish is the author of What I Learned at the War (Lamar University Press, 2015) and Work Is Love Made Visible: Collected Family Photographs and Poetry (West End Press / University of New Mexico Press, 2009), winner of the 2010 Oklahoma Book Award for Poetry.
Mish conducted poetry workshops for students in public schools in underserved communities and rural areas across the state.
Paisley Rekdal was born and raised in Seattle, Washington. She received an MA from the University of Toronto and an MFA from the University of Michigan. Rekdal’s most recent collections include Nightingale (Copper Canyon Press, 2019); Imaginary Vessels (Copper Canyon Press, 2016); Animal Eye (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2012), winner of the 2013 Rilke Prize from the University of North Texas; and The Invention of the Kaleidoscope (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2007). She currently teaches at the University of Utah.
Rekdal launched the website “Mapping Literary Utah,” which contains videos, poems, and prose excerpts by writers that reside or have resided in Utah.
Raquel Salas Rivera was born in Puerto Rico and grew up there and in the United States. They are the author of x/ex/exis (poemas para la nación) (poems for the nation) (Bilingual Press/Editorial Bilingüe, 2019) and winner of the 2018 Ambroggio Prize; while they sleep (under the bed is another country) (Birds, LLC, 2019); lo terciario/the tertiary (Timeless, Infinite Light, 2018), which was longlisted for the 2018 National Book Award in Poetry; tierra intermitente (Ediciones Alayubia, 2017); and Caneca de anhelos turbios (Editora Educación Emergente, 2011).
Rivera organized the We (Too) Are Philly poetry festival and the monthly Lo Nuestro Poetry Series, as well as facilitated community workshops in Philadelphia.
Kim Shuck was born in San Francisco, California, and is a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. She received a BA in Art and an MFA in Textiles from San Francisco State University. Shuck is the author of Deer Trails (City Lights Books, 2019) Clouds Running In (Taurean Horn Press, 2014), Rabbit Stories (Poetic Matrix Press, 2013), and Smuggling Cherokee (Greenfield Review Press, 2005), as well as of the chapbook collection Sidewalk Ndn (FootHills Press, 2018). She currently works at the California College of Art in the Diversity department.
Shuck launched “Seeds: Creating Poetic Activism,” a seed program for poets to grow writing and reading series audiences in their own communities across the city.
TC Tolbert received a BA in English from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and an MFA in creative writing from the University of Arizona. S/he is the author of Gephyromania (Ahsahta Press, 2014) and four chapbooks of poetry, as well as coeditor, with Trace Peterson, of Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics (Nightboat Books, 2013).
Tolbert conducted a series of workshops with trans, non-binary, and queer (TNBQ) groups (primarily youth), and created a series of public installations highlighting TNBQ and LGBTQ+ voices and issues across Tucson.