Toi Derricotte, Jane Hirshfield, and Arthur Sze Elected Chancellors of the Academy of American Poets

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Jan 17 2012

New York, January 17—Tree Swenson, Executive Director of the Academy of American Poets, announced that Toi Derricotte, Jane Hirshfield, and Arthur Sze have been elected to the Board of Chancellors, the Academy's advisory board of distinguished poets.

Each of the new Chancellors will have a poem featured in the Academy's Poem-A-Day program, starting today with Toi Derricotte. To sign up, visit www.poets.org/poemaday.

The new Chancellors were elected by current Academy Chancellors Victor Hernández Cruz, Mark Doty, Rita Dove, Marilyn Hacker, Lyn Hejinian, Juan Felipe Herrera, Edward Hirsch, Naomi Shihab Nye, Sharon Olds, Ron Padgett, Carl Phillips, Marie Ponsot, Kay Ryan, Gerald Stern, and Anne Waldman.

Toi Derricotte was born in Hamtramck, Michigan in 1941. In 1996, with Cornelius Eady, she co-founded the Cave Canem Foundation, a "home for black poetry." She is the author of several collections of poetry including, The Undertaker's Daughter (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2011), Tender (1997), which won the 1998 Paterson Poetry Prize, Captivity (1989), and The Empress of the Death House (Lotus Press, 1978). Her memoir, The Black Notebooks (W.W. Norton, 1997) was a New York Times Notable Book. Derricotte's honors include the Lucille Medwick Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America, the Elizabeth Kray Award for service to the field of poetry from Poets House, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. She is a Professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh.

In discussing Toi Derricotte and her poetry, Academy Chancellor Gerald Stern recently said:

She is a deeply courageous, open and wise poet, a master of the lyric but only as it combines with the narrative and moves—through pain—into the visionary. Her true subject is redemption, but the journey towards that is always earned, as she spares nothing, including herself. To read through her poetry is to discover not just a void, but a person—and a world.

Born in New York City in 1953, Jane Hirshfield received her B.A. from Princeton University's first graduating class to include women. She then went on to study at the San Francisco Zen Center. Her latest collection of poems, Come, Thief, was published by Alfred A. Knopf in 2011. She is also the author of Given Sugar, Given Salt (HarperCollins, 2001), which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, The Lives of the Heart (1997), and Gravity & Angels (Wesleyan, 1988). Hirshfield has received the Northern California Book Award, fellowships from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundations, and was awarded the 70th Academy of American Poets Fellowship for distinguished poetic achievement. She has been a resident of the San Francisco Bay Area since 1974.

Academy Chancellor Kay Ryan recently praised Jane Hirshfield, saying:

She is that rare thing in contemporary American life, a true person of letters—an eloquent and exacting poet, first, but in addition the author of enduring essays and influential translations and anthologies. Now add to this a life on the hustings, bringing the good news about poetry to nearly every state of the union. Then further add her elegant ambassadorship for poetry in the greater world (think Japan, Poland, China) and you have something that satisfies the old sense of a person of letters—a writer who demonstrates in every possible way that this life matters.

Arthur Sze, a second-generation Chinese American, lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He was born in New York City in 1950 and is the author of eight books of poems, including The Ginkgo Light (Copper Canyon Press, 2009), Quipu (2005), and Archipelago (1995). Sze is also a celebrated translator from the Chinese, publishing Silk Dragon (Copper Canyon Press, 2001), which included the works of 18 Chinese poets who were previously not widely translated. He is the recipient of a Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Writers' Award, a Lannan Literary Award, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. Sze is a Professor Emeritus at the Institute of American Indian Arts and was the first Poet Laureate of Santa Fe.

Speaking about Sze's contributions to the art of poetry, Academy Chancellor Naomi Shihab Nye said:

Arthur Sze's work has long been a nourishing tonic for the mind—presences of the natural world, wide consciousness, and time, combine in exquisitely shaped and weighted lines and stanzas to create a poetry of deep attunement and lyrical precision. Sze's ongoing generous exchange with Asian poets and devotion to translation in collections such as The Silk Dragon, enriches the canon of world poetry immeasurably.

For more information about these poets and to read samples of their work, please visit www.poets.org.

The Board of Chancellors was established in 1946 by the Academy's founder, Marie Bullock, who said that:

"[Chancellors] must be chosen from amongst literary persons of the highest standing. They must themselves be known for their good judgment and eminent integrity of opinion. They should geographically represent the entire United States, so that their choices will be representative of the nation as a whole, and not of one trend of thought, or literary clique, or section."

The Academy of American Poets's Board of Chancellors elects the recipients of the Wallace Stevens Award and the Academy of American Poets Fellowship. They also act as consultants to the organization on matters of artistic direction and programming and serve as ambassadors of poetry in the world at large. Previous Chancellors of the Academy have included Marianne Moore, W. H. Auden, Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Bishop, John Berryman, Robert Penn Warren, and James Merrill, among others.

About the Academy of American Poets

The Academy of American Poets is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 1934 to foster appreciation for contemporary poetry and to support American poets at all stages of their careers. For over three generations, the Academy has connected millions of people to great poetry through programs such as National Poetry Month, the largest literary celebration in the world; Poets.org, the most popular site about poetry on the web, presenting a wealth of great poems, audio recordings, poet biographies, essays, and interactive discussions about poetry; the Poetry Audio Archive, capturing the voices of contemporary American poets for generations to come; American Poet, a biannual literary journal; and an annual series of poetry readings and special events. The Academy also awards prizes to accomplished poets at all stages of their careers—from hundreds of student prizes at colleges nationwide to the Wallace Stevens Award for lifetime achievement in the art of poetry. For more information, visit www.poets.org.