New York, NY (September 16, 2020)— The Poetry Coalition, a network of 25+ poetry organizations, is pleased to present its inaugural cohort of the Poetry Coalition Fellowship program. These five individuals have been selected to receive paid fellowships, each at a different host organization within the Poetry Coalition: CantoMundo, Cave Canem, Kundiman, Mizna, and Split This Rock. The fellows will work part-time over the course of a forty-week period beginning September 15, 2020. The fellows will also receive professional development opportunities. 

This three-year pilot program will offer paid fellowship positions to five fellows per year, or a total of fifteen fellows, from 2020 through 2023. In consideration of the COVID-19 pandemic, the current positions will be remote. 

The 2020-2021 Poetry Coalition fellows are: 

At CantoMundo, María Fernanda

María Fernanda is a poet who builds creative residencies with and for artists across disciplines. She has managed national North American tour contracts with artists and orchestras, including the Berliner Philharmoniker, Mavis Staples, and numerous international artists. She moved on to hold positions at The Shed, THE REACH at The John F. Kennedy Center, and ASU Gammage. Her poems and translations appear in The Breakbeat Poets Vol. 4: LatiNext, The Wide Shore, Soul Sister Revue, and elsewhere. Featuring at The Brooklyn Museum, The Kelly Writers House, The Ecuadorian American Cultural Center, The Phoenix Museum, and more, Fernanda has received fellowships from Callaloo Writers Workshop, VONA/Voices of Our Nation, and CantoMundo. She is a Black Ecuadorian American from Washington, DC with a cultural background branching to Louisiana and Texas.  

At Cave Canem, Christopher J. Greggs

Christopher J. Greggs is a poet, designer, and recording artist living in Jersey City, New Jersey. He is a Cave Canem, Tin House, Callaloo, and Watering Hole Poetry fellow, and his work has appeared or is forthcoming in TriQuarterly, Winter Tangerine, Texas Review, and This Is What America Looks Like (Washington Writers' Publishing House), among other publications. Christopher earned his MFA in Poetry from The University of Wisconsin-Madison. His debut EP, Change Mah Name, is streaming on all platforms. His interview with actor/director Sonja Sohn can be found in the great weather for MEDIA's anthology Suitcase of Chrysanthemums.   

At Kundiman, Steven Duong 

Steven Duong is a Vietnamese American writer and artist from San Diego. His poems have appeared in The Margins, The Massachusetts Review, AGNI, Passages North, Pleiades, and elsewhere. As a 2019 Thomas J. Watson Fellow, he traveled to Malawi, China, Thailand, and Vietnam, conducting his global writing project, "Freshwater Fish and the Poetry of Containment." A 2020 Djanikian Scholar in Poetry for The Adroit Journal, he currently serves as a guest editor at Palette Poetry

At Mizna, Ruba El Melik

Ruba El Melik is an independent researcher, curator, and cultural worker interested in shaping futures for cultural expression and creating possibilities for African scholarship on the continents that exist outside of institutions. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology from UCLA and is currently a Researcher with Andariya, an East African media platform, where she studies the impact of art suppression and erasure on collective memory and social ideologies amongst the Sudanese population. She is also co-host and co-curator of In The Margins, a transnational literary collective that hosts live bi-monthly virtual discussions centering radical thought and marginalized authors. She is based between Rochester, MN and Khartoum, Sudan.

At Split This Rock, Destiny Hemphill

A poet, healer, and organizer, Destiny Hemphill is a Black daughter of the U.S. South with nearly a decade of experience in co-creating spaces devoted to poetry, communion, and transformation. She has received fellowships from Tin House, Callaloo, and Naropa University. Destiny is the author of the chapbook Oracle: a Cosmology (2018). Her work can also be found in Poetry, Carolina Quarterly, EcoTheo, The Wanderer, and elsewhere. She offers her poems as chants and rites to the sacred art of Black liberation.

The goals of the Poetry Coalition Fellowship program are:

  • to help diversify the leadership of the nonprofit literary field by encouraging more inclusion of individuals from under-represented communities;

  • to develop future literary leaders regardless of educational background; 

  • to introduce the individuals who are interested to nonprofit literary arts management, fundraising, programming, and editorial work, providing experiences that will be useful as they seek jobs and inspiring them to consider working in the literary field; and 

  • to increase the capacity of each host organization by having additional assistance. 

The fellowship program is made possible by the support of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

About CantoMundo

CantoMundo, in partnership with the University of Arizona Poetry Center, is a national poetry organization that cultivates a community of Latinx poets through workshops, symposia, and public readings. Founded in 2009 by Norma E. Cantú, Celeste Mendoza, Pablo Miguel Martínez, Deborah Paredez, and Carmen Tafolla, CantoMundo, modeled after Kundiman and Cave Canem, hosts an annual poetry workshop for Latinx poets that provides a space for the creation, documentation, and critical analysis of Latinx poetry. Part of CantoMundo’s mission is to have the various latinidades in conversation with each other, from coast to coast, north and south, representing diverse poetic styles and heritages, whether in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and indigenous languages. With such a large presence of CantoMundo fellows spread across the nation, CantoMundistas also participate in CantoMundo Regions. These Regions, organized by a Regional Chair(s), carry on the mission of CantoMundo by supporting and fostering Latinx poets and poetry at the local level. This initiative allows us to bring CantoMundo into an increasing number of communities in an effort to broaden our reach and be of service to a wider array of Latinx poets outside of the annual workshop.

About Cave Canem

Founded by Toi Derricotte and Cornelius Eady in 1996 to remedy the under-representation and isolation of African American poets in the literary landscape, Cave Canem Foundation is a home for the many voices of African American poetry and is committed to cultivating the artistic and professional growth of African American poets. Cave Canem has grown from a gathering of 26 poets to become an influential movement with a renowned faculty, high-achieving national fellowship of over 500 and a workshop community of over 1,000. Cave Canem’s programs and publications enlarge the American literary canon; democratize archives; and expand for students, aspiring poets and readers the notion of what’s possible and valuable in a poem.

About Kundiman

Founded in 2004, Kundiman is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to nurturing generations of writers and readers of Asian American literature. Kundiman’s programs, including its signature Retreat, Readings & Workshops, and Mentorship Lab, build community, support writers and readers, and ensure Asian American stories reach broad audiences. In the early 2000s, cofounders Sarah Gambito and Joseph O. Legaspi bonded over challenges they encountered as writers and sought to create a safe yet rigorous environment for Asian American writers. Kundiman’s Retreat was modeled after Cave Canem: A Home for Black Poetry. Founded several years after the VONA workshops for writers of color, and several years before CantoMundo’s annual workshop for Latinx poets and Lambda Literary’s Writers Retreat for Emerging LGBTQ Voices, Kundiman arrives at a watershed moment in American letters.

About Mizna

Mizna is a critical platform for contemporary literature, art, film, and cultural programming centering the work of Southwest Asian and North African artists. For twenty years, it has sought to reflect the depth and multiplicity of its community and has been committed to being a space for Arab, Muslim, and other artists from the region to reclaim our narratives and engage audiences in meaningful and artistically excellent art. It publishes Mizna: Prose, Poetry and Art Exploring Arab America, the only Arab American lit and art journal in the country; produces the Twin Cities Arab Film Festival, the largest and longest running Arab film fest in the Midwest; and offers classes, readings, performances, public art, and community events, having featured over 400 local and global writers, filmmakers, and artists.

About Split This Rock

Split This Rock cultivates, teaches, and celebrates poetry that bears witness to injustice and provokes change. From its home in the nation's capital, Split This Rock calls poets to the center of public life and fosters a national network of socially engaged poets. Since its 2008 founding, Split This Rock has had a significant impact on DC's cultural life, presenting internationally acclaimed poets, providing unique artistic development opportunities to DC poets, building a robust youth program that fosters and amplifies the voices of District youth, raising the profile of poetry as an art form, and uniting across radically diverse communities through the written and spoken word. Split This Rock sees a critical role for arts organizations to play during this portal time. Staff have adapted workshops, featured readings, a virtual open mic, summer youth programs, and the weekly newsletter to continue through the current crises. Split This Rock is committed to making all of its programming as accessible as possible and removing barriers to participation where they exist.

About the Academy of American Poets

The Academy of American Poets is the nation’s leading champion of poets and poetry with supporters in all fifty states. Founded in 1934, the organization produces, the world’s largest publicly funded website for poets and poetry; originated and organizes National Poetry Month; publishes the popular Poem-a-Day series and American Poets magazine; provides award-winning resources to K–12 educators, including the Teach This Poem series; administers the American Poets Prizes; hosts an annual series of poetry readings and special events; and coordinates a national Poetry Coalition working together to promote the value poets bring to our culture. Through its prize program, the organization annually awards more funds to individual poets than any other organization, giving a total of $1,250,000 to more than 200 poets at various stages of their careers. This year, in response to the global health crisis, the Academy joined six other national organizations to launch Artist Relief, a multidisciplinary coalition of arts grantmakers and a consortium of foundations working to provide resources and funding to the country’s individual poets, writers, and artists who are impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In another similar effort, the Academy, along with two other literary arts organizations—the Community of Literary Magazines & Presses and the National Book Foundation—established the Literary Arts Emergency Fund, which will grant emergency relief funding to magazines, presses, and literary arts organizations across the U.S. that have experienced financial losses as a result of the pandemic.

About The Poetry Coalition

The Poetry Coalition is a national alliance of more than 25 organizations dedicated to 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. Members are nonprofit organizations whose primary mission is to promote poets and poetry, and/or multi-genre literary organizations that serve poets of specific abilities, ethnic,  gender, or racial identities, backgrounds, or communities. All members present poets at live events. Each March, members present programming across the country on a theme of social importance. The Poetry Coalition is coordinated by the Academy of American Poets and we are grateful to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for its support of this work.