New York, NY (April 20, 2023)—In honor of Earth Day, which will take place on April 22, the Academy of American Poets is pleased to announce the 2023 winners of the Treehouse Climate Action Poem Prize, which honors exceptional poems that help readers recognize the gravity of the vulnerable state of our environment. The winners were selected by climate scientist and author Dr. Peter Kalmus and poet Matthew Olzmann. This annual prize was launched in 2019 with generous support from Treehouse Investments, LLC.
The theme of Earth Day 2023, which was designated by Earthday.org, is “Invest in Our Planet,” underscoring the importance of dedicating resources to climate action.
The winning poems and poets are:
First place: “Lullaby” by John James (to be published in Poem-a-Day on Earth Day, April 22, 2023)
Second place: “Playing with Bees” by RK Fauth (to be published in Poem-a-Day on April 29, 2023)
Third place: “Though from Here I Can’t Smell the Smoke” by Allison Hutchcraft (to be published in Poem-a-Day on May 6, 2023)
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 800,000+ individuals each day via email and podcast, on Poets.org, and across social media.
To sign up for Poem-a-Day and read the winning poems on the selected dates, visit: www.poets.org/poem-a-day.
About the first-place poem, judges Dr. Peter Kalmus and Matthew Olzmann wrote:
“‘Lullaby’ skillfully captures the painful scale that is so characteristic of the climate emergency: the tension of trying to embrace the joys of an individual life, such as holding a newborn baby, while simultaneously being aware that this delight takes place against the large-scale backdrop of global catastrophe. This poem balances the dynamic of private versus public experience, local versus global, and internal versus external in a way that makes our current crisis feel both personal and intimate.”
About the second- and third-place poems, the judges wrote:
“Making language itself a primary concern, ‘Playing with Bees’ reminds us that we are nature, just as bees are, and the poem explores the manner in which words govern our relationship with the nonhuman world. Inside that exploration, this poem becomes a poignant meditation on how we imagine both the natural world and our place within it, while also capturing some of the mystery of what exists beyond our ability to express.”
“By juxtaposing the escalation of wildfires against the saints in medieval frescos, ‘Though from Here I Can’t Smell the Smoke’ shows our current climate emergency to also be a spiritual crisis. The stakes here could not be higher: vast, existential, and urgent.”
For more information about the prize, including the full guidelines, visit: www.poets.org/academy-american-poets/prizes/treehouse-climate-action-poem-prize.
About Dr. Peter Kalmus
Dr. Peter Kalmus is a climate scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He is the recipient of NASA’s Early Career Achievement Medal. Kalmus has a BA in physics from Harvard and a PhD in physics from Columbia, and his research interests include severe weather, wildfire prediction, coral reef decline, and extreme humid heat. He is also a climate activist, the founder of the Climate Ad Project, and the author of numerous articles, as well as the book Being the Change: Live Well and Spark a Climate Revolution. He lives in North Carolina.
About Matthew Olzmann
Matthew Olzmann was born in Detroit. He received a BA from the University of Michigan–Dearborn and an MFA from Warren Wilson College. He is the author of Constellation Route (Alice James Books, 2022); Contradictions in the Design (Alice James Books, 2016); and Mezzanines (Alice James Books, 2013), winner of the 2011 Kundiman Poetry Prize. Olzmann has received fellowships from the Kresge Arts Foundation and Kundiman, among others. Olzmann teaches at Dartmouth College and in the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College. He lives in Vermont.
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 and beyond. The organization annually awards $1.3+ million to more than two hundred poets at various stages of their careers through its prize and fellowship programs. The organization also produces Poets.org, 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 free resources to K–12 educators, including the award-winning weekly Teach This Poem series; hosts an annual series of poetry readings, and special events; and coordinates a national Poetry Coalition that promotes the value poets bring to our culture. To learn more about the Academy of American Poets, including its staff, its Board of Directors, and its Board of Chancellors, visit: https://poets.org.
About Treehouse Investments
Treehouse Investments is a privately-owned investment fund financing climate-focused infrastructure since 2007.