The Chancellors of the Academy named Gwendolyn Brooks the recipient of the sixty-fifth Academy of American Poets Fellowship for distinguished poetic achievement. The Fellowship carries a prize of $20,000 and fellows are nominated and elected by the Academy's Board of Chancellors, an advisory body of eminent poets. The Board of Chancellors that elected Brooks for the 1999 Fellowship consisted of John Ashbery, Lucille Clifton, Robert Creeley, Louise Glück, Jorie Graham, John Hollander, Richard Howard, Donald Justice, Yusef Komunyakaa, J. D. McClatchy, Heather McHugh, W. S. Merwin, Michael Palmer, Adrienne Rich, Mark Strand, David Wagoner, Rosanna Warren, and Charles Wright.
Gwendolyn Brooks’s poetry plumbs our national psyche. She has for decades been a leading force in American poetry, illuminating for us all a little-understood dimension of American life. Accomplished in her craft from the first, Brooks developed a highly flexible line and multivocal language that have allowed her to move with authority between the lyric and the prophetic. Her work ranges from exquisite satire to lamentation; from precise microcosmic narratives of the human condition to apocalyptic meditations. She has accorded heroic stature to the lives of women in the African American community, while never ceasing to speak for and to that community as a whole. Her poetry holds up a mirror to the American experience entire, its dreams, self-delusions and nightmares. Her voice is inimitable.