Thirteen poets will receive a combined, historic $1 million

New York, NY (April 24, 2019)— The Academy of American Poets is pleased to announce the first-ever recipients of the Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellowships. These thirteen poets who have been named as poets laureate of states, cities, and counties positively impact their communities. They will receive a combined $1,050,000 in recognition of their literary merit and to support civic programs, which will take place over the next twelve months. 

These new fellowships are made possible by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and, in total, are believed to be the largest awards provided to poets in the U.S. at any one time by a charitable organization. They are also in keeping with this spring’s national poetry programming theme of Poetry & Democracy offered by the Poetry Coalition, an alliance of more than 20 organizations 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.

“Poets have an important role in our culture and in communities all across the country. By supporting poets laureate at the state and local level, we hope to ensure that more people become acquainted with poets and poetry where they live and have an opportunity to benefit from innovative and groundbreaking programming close to home,” said Michael Jacobs, Chairman of the Academy of American Poets. 

“Poets make immeasurable contributions. Their poems spark conversation and can help us learn about one another’s lives and unique experiences, which promotes greater understanding. We’re honored to help underwrite these talented poets who are leaders in their communities and who have been working on public projects for years with little or no support,” said Jennifer Benka, Executive Director of the Academy of American Poets.  

Grace Cavalieri, Poet Laureate of Maryland
Grace Cavalieri received a BS in Education from New Jersey College and an MA in creative writing from Goddard University. Her most recent collection is Other Voices, Other Lives (Alan Squire Publishing, 2017). Cavalieri, who will receive $75,000, plans to launch a podcast that will feature Maryland poets and have Maryland newspapers feature a monthly column with poems by Maryland poets.

Molly Fisk, Poet Laureate of Nevada County, California 
Molly Fisk received a BA in Folklore and Mythology from Radcliffe College/ Harvard University and an MBA from the Simmons College Graduate School of Management. She is the author of four poetry collections, most recently The More Difficult Beauty (Hip Pocket Press, 2010). Fisk, who will receive $75,000, plans to launch “California Fire & Water,” a statewide teaching, anthology, and public reading project addressing the state's recent devastating fires. 

Jaki Shelton Green, Poet Laureate of North Carolina
Jaki Shelton Green is the author of eight collections, most recently I Want to Undie You (Jacar Press, 2017). She currently teaches Documentary Poetry at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. Green, who will receive $75,000, plans to launch “Literary ChangeMakers,” which will support youth poets who are engaged artistically in civic and community activism, social justice, and youth leadership in over 100 counties in North Carolina.

Fred L. Joiner, Poet Laureate of Carrboro, North Carolina
Fred L. Joiner received an MFA in creative writing from Lesley University. He is the author of BLOOD/SOUND, forthcoming from Central Square Press in April 2019. He is the cofounder of The Center for Poetic Thought in Washington, D.C. Joiner, who will receive $50,000, plans to organize and grow the West End Poetry Festival; conduct writing workshops; establish a salon that would use a rotating roster of local eateries and cafes around the county as a venue; and support a retreat/residency/performance space.

Robin Coste Lewis, Poet Laureate of Los Angeles, California
Robin Coste Lewis was born in Compton, California. She received a PhD in Creative Writing and Literature from the University of Southern California, an MFA in Creative Writing from New York University, and an MTS from the Divinity School at Harvard University. She is the author of Voyage of the Sable Venus (Alfred A. Knopf, 2015), winner of the National Book Award in poetry. Lewis is the Writer-in-Residence at the University of Southern California. Lewis, who will receive $100,000, plans to create and conduct a "Poetic Truths and Reconciliation Commission" for the City of Los Angeles, which will be a year-long experiment in redress, a series of programs (readings and conversations) that use the poetry from various LA histories/communities to engage the process of cultural, political and historical reconciliation.

Claudia Castro Luna, Poet Laureate of Washington State
Claudia Castro Luna was born in El Salvador. She received a BA in Anthropology from the University of California, Irvine, an MA in Urban Planning from University of California, Los Angeles, and an MFA in poetry from Mills College. She is the author of Killing Marias (Two Sylvias Press, 2017) and the chapbook This City (Floating Bridge Press, 2016). She currently teaches at Seattle University. Castro Luna, who will receive $100,000, plans to convene a series of poetry writing workshops and readings along the entire length of the Columbia River, from the point it enters the northeastern corner of Washington to its encounter with the Pacific Ocean, highlighting the importance of this natural resource. 

Ed Madden, Poet Laureate of Columbia, South Carolina
Ed Madden was raised in Newport, Arkansas. He received a BA in English and French from Harding University, a BS in Biblical Studies from the Institute for Christian Studies, an MA in English from the University of Texas at Austin, and a PhD in literature from the University of Texas at Austin. His most recent collections include Ark (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2016), Nest (Salmon Poetry, 2014), and Prodigal: Variations (Lethe Press, 2011). He is a professor of English and director of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at the University of South Carolina, where he teaches Irish literature and creative writing. Madden, who will receive $50,000, plans to launch “Telling the Stories of the City,” a project that will incorporate local and youth voices, build on community-based workshops, and create an interactive storymap of the city.

Adrian Matejka, Poet Laureate of Indiana
Adrian Matejka was born in Nuremberg, Germany, and grew up in California and Indiana. He received a BA from Indiana University and an MFA from Southern Illinois University–Carbondale. He is the author of Map to the Stars (Penguin, 2017); The Big Smoke (Penguin, 2013), which was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize; Mixology (Penguin, 2009), which was a winner of the 2008 National Poetry Series; and The Devil’s Garden (Alice James Books, 2003), which received the 2002 New York/New England Book Award. Matejka, who will receive $100,000, plans to continue to grow “Poetry For Indy” workshops in Indiana cities with culturally diverse and economically underserved communities, and launch a digital archive serving both as a historical document of poetry in Indiana and as a resource for teachers.

Jeanetta Calhoun Mish, Poet Laureate of Oklahoma
Jeanetta Calhoun Mish was born in Hobart, Oklahoma. She received a BA and an MFA in English from the University of Texas - Permian Basin and a PhD in English from the University of Oklahoma. Mish is the author of What I Learned at the War (Lamar University Press, 2015) and Work Is Love Made Visible: Collected Family Photographs and Poetry (West End Press / University of New Mexico Press, 2009), winner of the 2010 Oklahoma Book Award for Poetry. Mish, who will receive $100,000, plans to present poetry workshops for students in public schools in underserved communities and/or rural areas across the state.

Paisley Rekdal, Poet Laureate of Utah
Paisley Rekdal was born and raised in Seattle, Washington. She received an MA from the University of Toronto and an MFA from the University of Michigan. Rekdal's most recent collections include Nightingale, forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press in 2019; Imaginary Vessels (Copper Canyon Press, 2016); Animal Eye (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2012), winner of the 2013 Rilke Prize from the University of North Texas; and The Invention of the Kaleidoscope (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2007). She currently teaches at the University of Utah. Rekdal, who will receive $100,000, plans to launch the website “Mapping Literary Utah,” which will contain videos, poems, and prose excerpts by writers that reside or have resided in Utah; and present a statewide poetry festival.

Raquel Salas Rivera, Poet Laureate of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Raquel Salas Rivera was born in Puerto Rico and grew up there and in the United States. They are the author of x/ex/exis (poemas para la nación) (poems for the nation), forthcoming from Bilingual Press/Editorial Bilingüe in fall 2019 and winner of the 2018 Ambroggio Prize; while they sleep (under the bed is another country) (Birds, LLC, 2019); lo terciario/the tertiary (Timeless, Infinite Light, 2018), which was longlisted for the 2018 National Book Award in Poetry; tierra intermitente (Ediciones Alayubia, 2017); and Caneca de anhelos turbios (Editora Educación Emergente, 2011). Rivera, who will receive $50,000, plans to continue to organize the We Are Philly poetry festival and the monthly Lo nuestro Poetry Series, as well as facilitate community workshops in Philadelphia.

Kim Shuck, Poet Laureate of San Francisco, California
Kim Shuck was born in San Francisco, California, and is a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. She received a BA in Art and an MFA in Textiles from San Francisco State University. Shuck is the author of Deer Trails, forthcoming from City Lights Books in October 2019, Clouds Running In (Taurean Horn Press, 2014), Rabbit Stories (Poetic Matrix Press, 2013), and Smuggling Cherokee (Greenfield Review Press, 2005), as well as of the chapbook collection Sidewalk Ndn (FootHills Press, 2018). She currently works at the California College of Art in the Diversity department. Shuck, who will receive $75,000, plans to launch “Seeds: Creating Poetic Activism,” a seed program for poets to grow writing and reading series/audiences in their own communities across the city. 

TC Tolbert, Poet Laureate of Tucson, Arizona
TC Tolbert received a BA in English from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and an MFA in creative writing from the University of Arizona. S/he is the author of Gephyromania (Ahsahta Press, 2014) and four chapbooks of poetry, as well as coeditor, with Trace Peterson, of Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics (Nightboat Books, 2013). S/he currently serves as the Poet Laureate of Tucson, Arizona. Tolbert, who will receive $100,000, plans to conduct a series of workshops with trans, non-binary, and queer (TNBQ) groups (primarily youth), and create a series of public installations highlighting TNBQ and LGBTQ+ voices and issues across Tucson. 

The Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellowships panel included past U.S. Poets Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera, Robert Pinsky, and Natasha Trethewey; National Student Poets Program founder and member of President Obama’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities Olivia Morgan; MacArthur Fellow Natalie Diaz; and Guggenheim Fellow Mark Nowak. The panel was cochaired by Eunice “Nicie” Panetta, executive producer and cohost of “Fresh,” a podcast series in development about the freshman class of the 116th Congress, and former board chair of the Academy of American Poets; and Jennifer Benka, president and executive director of the Academy of American Poets. Final award decisions, informed by the panel and the scope of the projects, were made by the Academy of American Poets. 

About the Academy of American Poets
The Academy of American Poets is our nation’s leading champion of poets, poetry, and the work of poetry organizations. 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 the American Poets Prizes. The organization also coordinates the work of a national Poetry Coalition 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.