New York, NY (July 2, 2019)— In January, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation made two grants to the Academy of American Poets totaling $2.2 million. One grant will provide fellowships to poets serving in civic Poets Laureate positions and the other will support a national field-building initiative, the Poetry Coalition. The grants are believed to be among the largest awards ever made to support poetry in the United States by a philanthropic institution. As Elizabeth Alexander, President of the Mellon Foundation, writes in the institution’s 2018 Annual Report: 

If we believe in the power of words, and that words matter and if we believe that words carry not only meaning but also carry something human, that shared language and the exchange of language is one of the things that makes us human and if we believe that precision with the word matters, that  striving for absolute precision with the word is one of the ways that human beings can communicate deeply enough in order to overcome that which is not understood between us; if we believe also that there is too much language in the air right now that is imprecise, false, harmful, operating not to bridge understanding but to create misunderstanding, to divide and that there is very precise if inelegant language that is being used for the purpose of misnaming and dividing us, we might think about poetry and its possibilities and purposes as distilled and precise language.

Poetry is language designed to bridge and can uniquely hold complexity and contradiction. Poetry creates language that can sustain irresolution and create the time it takes to live with that lack of resolution and perhaps let it shift a little. Poetry is the art form in words that is most accessible, which may seem surprising because it is seen as esoteric.

Poetry is small, it is portable, it is revered the world over and understood in other societies. And it is an art form underserved by philanthropy. It is not an art form that necessarily needs extensive philanthropy, but it is a philanthropy bargain for the power of what it can achieve.

Read the full Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Annual Report

Learn more about the Inaugural Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellows

Learn more about the Poetry Coalition

About the Academy of American Poets
The Academy of American Poets is our nation’s leading champion of poets and poetry. Founded in 1934, the organization produces, 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 resources for K-12 educators; an annual series of poetry readings and special events; and awards more funds to poets than any other organization. It also coordinates and supports the work of a national Poetry Coalition, an alliance of more than 20 poetry organizations working 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.