We are pleased to share the following news from our Executive Director, Jennifer Benka.

Dear Poets and Poetry Publishers,

I’m writing with a special announcement regarding our prizes, but first, I want to thank Marcelo Hernandez Castillo, Christopher Soto, and Javier Zamora. In recent weeks, these three poets have been working to ensure that first-book awards for poets, including the Academy of American Poets’ Walt Whitman Award, are more inclusive of young poets living in the United States.

The Academy of American Poets was founded in 1934 by a twenty-three-year-old woman, Marie Bullock, who dedicated herself to energetically championing American poets to readers across the United States, and advocated for the art of poetry to occupy an even greater place in our nation’s culture.

Almost seventy years ago, and with Marie’s leadership, the Academy of American Poets joined the ranks of the National Book Foundation and the Pulitzer Prize Foundation, by honoring poets with nationally regarded awards. While our organization’s awards are just one of the ways we spotlight and celebrate American poets and poetry, we consistently hear from poets what positive impact the visibility and validation our awards provide.

That’s why, on behalf of the Academy of American Poets, I am pleased to announce that today we are expanding the eligibility criteria not only for our Walt Whitman Award, but also for all of the Academy of American Poets Prizes:

Wallace Stevens Award

Academy of American Poets Fellowship

Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize

James Laughlin Award

Harold Morton Landon Translation Award

Raiziss/de Palchi Translation Award

Most Promising Young Poet Award

Walt Whitman Award

Effective March 5, 2015, and in regards to eligibility for the Academy of American Poets Prizes, any poet who meets one of the below criteria on the date of the application deadline to any of the aforementioned eight Academy of American Poets Prizes, in any given year, is eligible to apply:

  • U.S. Citizen
  • resident of the United States for a ten-year period prior to the submission deadline or January 1 of the prize year for those awards that have no application process, or
  • Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) status, Temporary Protected Status (TPS), Legal Permanent Status (LPS), or any subsequent categories designated by the U.S. authorities as conferring similar enhanced status upon non-citizens living in the United States.

As our Chancellor Alberto Ríos notes:

“As a Walt Whitman winner myself, being born on the border, and with a father who originally came to this country without appropriate paperwork, I know what a difference winning that award made to me, and though I was born in this country, how close I was to being in an entirely different circumstance. I also know what being counted and made eligible could mean to someone in these limbos.”

And, as our Chancellor Linda Gregerson notes:

“We’re all the heirs and beneficiaries of America’s rich immigration/migrant culture, in poetry as in so many other realms. It can only do honor to the national heritage to extend this welcome to those upon whose energies and imaginations we so rely.”

We are pleased to make this change and look forward to your manuscripts.


Jennifer Benka
Executive Director
Academy of American Poets