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Joseph Drew Lanham

Poet Laureate of Edgefield, SC 2022

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), and the E. O. Wilson Award for Outstanding Science in Biodiversity Conservation (Center for Biological Diversity). 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.

Joseph Drew Lanham
Laureate Project
Poet Laureate of Edgefield, SC

Poet Laureate of Edgefield, SC

In 2022, J. Drew Lanham was named an Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellow. Lanham's project, “Literary Reparations,” proposes through illumination, education, and dedication, to recognize Dave Drake as the first poet laureate of Edgefield County and the premier poet laureate of South Carolina. Drake, who lived in the 1800s, was an enslaved African American man known for his exceptional pottery, on which he sometimes wrote poems. The project will draw on a unique and complicated history, seeking to uplift communities by illuminating an oppressed poet’s words. It will incorporate civic engagement and education through poetry readings and writing projects, and build on the momentum of gathering around a heroic figure. The project places history in the present and melds poetry into civic policy. Lanham will also work to have a day in February or April proclaimed as “Dave Drake Poetry Day,” which will be celebrated with readings, workshops, and poetry contests.