New York, NY (January 7, 2019)—The Academy of American Poets is pleased to announce that Joy Harjo and Natasha Trethewey have been named its newest Chancellors, an honorary position that has been held by some of the most distinguished poets in the United States, including W. H. Auden, John Ashbery, Elizabeth Bishop, Lucille Clifton, Yusef Komunyakaa, Adrienne Rich, and Mark Strand. Poets elected to the Board of Chancellors become an important part of the history of Academy of American Poets and as of 2019, only 115 poets have been elected to this board since it was formed in 1946.
As members of the Board of Chancellors, Harjo and Trethewey will consult with the organization on matters of artistic programming, serve as judges for the organization’s largest prizes for poets, and act as ambassadors of poetry in the world at large. The new Chancellors were selected by the current members—Elizabeth Alexander, Ellen Bass, Marilyn Chin, Kwame Dawes, Forrest Gander, Linda Gregerson, Terrance Hayes, Brenda Hillman, Marie Howe, Khaled Mattawa, Alicia Ostriker, Alberto Ríos, and David St. John—and will be filling the seats vacated by Marilyn Nelson and Claudia Rankine, whose terms have concluded. New Chancellors are elected by the members of the current Board of Chancellors and serve for a period of six years.
"We're honored to have Joy and Natasha as new Chancellors of the Academy of American Poets. Their participation, along with that of the other esteemed poets currently serving as Chancellors, ensures that poets remain at the heart of all we publish, program, and promote,” said Jennifer Benka, Academy executive director.
About the New Chancellors
Joy Harjo was born in was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma and is a member of the Mvskoke/Creek Nation. Harjo received a BA from the University of New Mexico and an MFA from the Iowa Writers Workshop.
Harjo is the author of Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings (W. W. Norton, 2015); How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems (W. W. Norton, 2002); A Map to the Next World: Poems (W. W. Norton, 2000); The Woman Who Fell From the Sky (W. W. Norton, 1994), which received the Oklahoma Book Arts Award; In Mad Love and War (Wesleyan University Press, 1990), which received an American Book Award and the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award; Secrets from the Center of the World (University of Arizona Press, 1989); She Had Some Horses (Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1983); and What Moon Drove Me to This? (Reed Books, 1979).
Academy Chancellor Marilyn Chin says Harjo "is an iconic and beloved multi-genre artist. Her poetry, prose, and music have delighted, informed, and tantalized an international audience for over four decades. Her poetry displays a strong commitment to her social and political ideals as she fights tirelessly for Native American justice, ending violence against women, and a variety of important issues. Her masterful spiritual grace always shines through with compassion and forgiveness. Her poetry is a timeless gift to the world."
Harjo’s honors include the PEN Open Book Award, the American Indian Distinguished Achievement in the Arts Award, the Josephine Miles Poetry Award, the Mountains and Plains Booksellers Award, the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America, and fellowships from the Arizona Commission on the Arts, the Witter Bynner Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2015, Harjo received the Wallace Stevens Award.
Natasha Trethewey was born in Gulfport, Mississippi. She received an MA in poetry from Hollins University and an MFA in poetry from the University of Massachusetts.
Her first collection of poetry, Domestic Work (Graywolf Press, 2000), was selected by Academy Chancellor Emeritus Rita Dove as the winner of the inaugural Cave Canem Poetry Prize for the best first book by an African American poet and won both the 2001 Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Book Prize and the 2001 Lillian Smith Award for Poetry. Trethewey is also the author of Monument: Poems New and Selected (Hougton Mifflin, 2018), which was longlisted for the 2018 National Book Award in Poetry; Thrall (Houghton Mifflin, 2012); Native Guard (Houghton Mifflin, 2006), which received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry; and Bellocq’s Ophelia (Graywolf Press, 2002).
Academy Chancellor Elizabeth Alexander says Trethewey ”is a national treasure who has represented the country as poet laureate with great distinction. Her meticulously wrought poems explore how personal and national history are constantly converging. She understands the time and place she was born into, as well as the history that moves us forward in fits and starts. Her poems are finely-honed gems of tremendous beauty and haunting power. Her work gives full meaning to the word 'grace,' in all it makes elegant and ritual, and all it forgives."
Trethewey was named as both the state poet laureate of Mississippi and the 19th U. S. poet laureate by the Library of Congress. In 2013, she was appointed for a second term, during which she travelled to cities and towns across the country meeting with the general public to seek out the many ways poetry lives in American communities and reported on her discoveries in a regular feature on the PBS News Hour Poetry Series. In 2013, she was also inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She received the Academy of American Poets Fellowship in 2015 and the Heinz Award for Arts and Humanities in 2017.
About the Academy of American Poets
The Academy of American Poets is the nation's leading champion of poets, poetry, and the work of poetry organizations. The organization produces Poets.org, the world’s largest publicly funded website for poets and poetry; National Poetry Month; the popular Poem-a-Day series; American Poets magazine; Teach This Poem and other award-winning resources for K-12 educators; and an annual series of poetry readings and special events. The Academy of American Poets also coordinates a national poetry coalition working together to promote the value poets bring to our culture and the important contribution poetry makes in the lives of people of all ages and backgrounds.