New York, NY (April 22, 2022)— Today, April 22, recognized as Earth Day, the Academy of American Poets is pleased to announce the 2022 winners of the Treehouse Climate Action Poem Prize, which honors exceptional poems that help make real for readers the gravity of the vulnerable state of our environment. The winners were selected by poet Dr. Alexis Pauline Gumbs and environmental thought-leader and activist Dr. Mustafa Santiago Ali. This annual prize was launched in 2019 with generous support from Treehouse Investments, LLC, a social impact firm.

The winning poems and poets are: 

First place: “Good Grief” by KB Brookins (to be published in Poem-a-Day on April 23, 2022)

Second place: “Apostrophe” by Liza Katz Duncan (to be published in Poem-a-Day on April 30, 2022)

Third place: “Do/Do Not” by Nisha Atalie (to be published in Poem-a-Day on May 7, 2022)

First place will receive $1,000; second place, $750; and third place, $500. In addition, all three poems will be published in the popular Poem-a-Day series, which is distributed to 500,000+ readers. 

Sign up for Poem-a-Day to read the winning poems on the selected dates:   

About the first-place poem, judges Dr. Alexis Pauline Gumbs and Dr. Mustafa Santiago Ali wrote: 

“Though grounded in a specific disaster, the 2021 Texas ice storms, ‘Good Grief’ nonetheless seems to speak for all of us. The voice is unique and yet familiar. ‘America is the worst group project’ and ‘Anything we dream will be better than this’ cry out against the structural lack of care that leads to climate disaster, also known as the American Dream, and offer the beginning of a new idea of kinship: ‘Let’s go for a walk & touch the trees that survived like us.’ In the end, these magnetic words remind us that the root networks trees create underground are a better model of survival than a broken, predatory power-grid. May we reach for each other in life-sustaining ways, like the trees.”

About the second and third-place poems, the judges wrote: 

“This vivid, lyrical description of the aftermath of a hurricane speaks directly to the many people on the front lines of the climate crisis. The poet’s careful images show us how the impossible has become mundane, and offer us necessary space to grieve.”

“‘Again I fill my gas tank with dead things...’ This poem speaks to those of us who are routinely responsible for the climate crisis, meaning our daily decisions contribute to environmental collapse. The poet’s gift is demonstrating how what we experience as ease and convenience, for example, the fact that ‘The mangos arrive unbruised / at the grocery store’ is evidence of a catastrophe. This poet opens up a possibility with each stanza: if our daily investments in a system that harms the planet can become strange to us again, maybe we can find another way. Our hope is that our actions in support of environmental accountability and stewardship will become as persistent, daily, and repeatable as the actions we take for granted right now.”

For more information about the prize, including the full guidelines, visit:

About Dr. Mustafa Santiago Ali 

Dr. Mustafa Santiago Ali is a renowned thought-leader, strategist, policymaker, and activist committed to fighting for environmental justice, public health, resource equity, and political empowerment to uplift our most vulnerable communities. He has also worked with over five hundred domestic and international communities to secure environmental, health, and economic justice. Dr. Ali has been featured on MSNBC, CNN, VICE, and Democracy NOW and nearly three hundred news publications, including GQ, The New Republic, Ebony, Bustle, the Guardian, The Root, the Los Angeles Times, and the Washington Post. He is a former instructor at West Virginia University and Stanford University.

About Dr. Alexis Pauline Gumbs

Dr. Alexis Pauline Gumbs is the author of The Eternal Life of Audre Lorde: Biography as Ceremony (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, forthcoming), Undrowned: Black Feminist Lessons from Marine Mammals (AK Press, 2020), and the triptych of experimental works, Spill: Scenes of Black Feminist Fugitivity (Duke University Press, 2016); M Archive: After the End of the World (Duke University Press, 2018); and Dub: Finding Ceremony (Duke University Press, 2020). She is the founder of Brilliance Remastered, an online network and series of retreats and intensive courses. She brings a passion for the issues that impact oppressed communities and an intimate knowledge of the resilience of movements led by Black, Indigenous, working-class women, and queer people of color. Gumbs’s poetry and fiction have been included in Best American Experimental Writing, nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and received honors from the Lucille Clifton Poetry Prize and the Firefly Ridge Women of Color Award. She is currently creative writing editor at Feminist Studies and a 2022 National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellow. 

About the Academy of American Poets

Founded in 1934, the Academy of American Poets is the nation’s leading champion of poets and poetry with supporters in all fifty states. The organization annually awards more funds to individual poets than any other organization through its prize and fellowship program, giving a total of $1.25 million to more than two hundred poets at various stages of their careers. The organization also produces, the world’s largest publicly-funded website for poets and poetry; established and organizes National Poetry Month each April; publishes the popular Poem-a-Day series and American Poets magazine; provides award-winning resources to K–12 educators, including the Teach This Poem series; hosts an annual series of poetry readings and special events; and coordinates a national Poetry Coalition, working together to promote the value poets bring to our culture.

About Treehouse Investments

Treehouse Investments is a boutique, distributed-infrastructure firm dedicated to reversing climate change. A family business, founded by a family from Puerto Rico in 2007, Treehouse made a commitment to invest in a socially responsible way. Over the years, Treehouse has become convinced that the only truly socially responsible investments are those which directly aim to reverse climate change.