New York, NY (September 15, 2022)— The Academy of American Poets announced today that after ten years, Jennifer Benka will transition out of the role as President & Executive Director of the Academy of American Poets.
With Benka’s leadership and fundraising, in the past decade the Academy has quadrupled its budget, become a leading publisher of contemporary poetry and funder of poets, developed award-winning educational programs; created and helped encourage new programs supporting poets of color; raised and awarded millions to fund local poetry projects and smaller poetry organizations across the U.S.; launched new prizes for poets; fostered a national Poetry Coalition; and helped lead COVID-19 emergency relief funds during the pandemic supporting many hundreds of poets and literary organizations.
“I’ve been humbled and honored to serve poets and the vibrant and diverse poetry community. I’ve accomplished much more than I ever hoped. I’ve also come to deeply believe in the importance of change and creating space for others to lead—and both at a time of strength, not crisis. The Academy today is stronger than ever with a talented staff, brilliant Chancellors, and devoted Board. I look forward to continuing to advocate for this necessary and transformative art and poets' essential contributions to culture in new and different ways on and off the page,” Benka said.
“We’re grateful to Jen Benka for her extraordinary leadership of the Academy, bold imagination, relentless focus, deep compassion, generosity of spirit, and love for poetry and its devotees near and far. She met the challenge and uncertainty of the pandemic by asking how the Academy could be of service, raising millions of dollars to provide financial assistance to poets and organizations facing crisis. She has also been a leader of our organization’s equity and inclusion efforts. Her dedication and generosity are deeply appreciated by all,” said Tess O’Dwyer, Chair of the Academy Board.
Benka will remain in her position until December 2022 and then rotate into a special advisory role. A national search for the Academy’s next leader will commence soon.
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 more than $1.3 million to more 200+ 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 working to promote the value poets bring to our culture.