Joseph Drew Lanham

J. Drew Lanham is an academic and poet from Edgefield, South Carolina.

Lanham is the author of Sparrow Envy: Poems (Holocenem, 2016); Sparrow Envy: Field Guide to Birds and Lesser Beasts (Hub City, 2021); and The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature (Milkweed 2016/Tantor Audio 2018). His memoir, The Home Place, is a past winner of the Reed Environmental Writing Award (Southern Environmental Law Center), the Southern Book Prize, and a 2017 finalist for the Burroughs Medal. It was named a memoir and scholarly book of the decade by Lithub and the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Lanham was awarded the Dan W. Lufkin Conservation Award (National Audubon Society), the Rosa Parks and Grace Lee Boggs Outstanding Service Award (North American Association for Environmental Education), the E. O. Wilson Award for Outstanding Science in Biodiversity Conservation (Center for Biological Diversity), and a MacArthur genius grant. Most recently, he was awarded the Roland P. Alston Communication Award from Clemson, and the Tommy Wyche Conservation Award from Upstate Forever, a South Carolina land conservancy.

Lanham holds an endowed chair at Clemson University, where his most recent scholarly efforts address the confluences of race, place, and nature. A conservation and cultural ornithologist, he has mentored nearly fifty graduate students, published extensively in scientific literature, and taught courses in conservation biology, forest ecology, wildlife policy, ornithology, and environmental literature / nature writing. He teaches writing workshops in creative nonfiction for Bread Loaf Environmental Writers’ Conference, Minnesota Northwoods Writers Conference, Elk River Writers Workshop, and Orion. He is a contributing editor for Orion Magazine, and his work has been deposited in the Sowell Family Archives at Texas Tech University. He is also a librettist, working on a musical interpretation of his poetry. Additionally, he has collaborated with museum curators to inform exhibits on birding, natural history, and the roles of historic figures, such as John James Audubon. He is a fellow of the Clemson Parks Institute and Safina Center, and a past board member of the National Audubon Society, Audubon South Carolina, South Carolina Wildlife Federation, Aldo Leopold Foundation, Bird Note and the American Birding Association. 

Lanham is the poet laureate of Edgefield County, South Carolina. In 2022, Lanham received an Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellowship.