January 8—Tree Swenson, Executive Director of the Academy of American Poets, announced that Victor Hernández Cruz and Ron Padgett have been elected to the Board of Chancellors, the Academy’s advisory board of distinguished poets. They were elected by Academy Chancellors Frank Bidart, Rita Dove, Robert Hass, Lyn Hejinian, Galway Kinnell, Nathaniel Mackey, Sharon Olds, Carl Phillips, Robert Pinsky, Kay Ryan, Gary Snyder, Gerald Stern, James Tate, Ellen Bryant Voigt, and C. K. Williams.
Victor Hernández Cruz was born in Puerto Rico and grew up in New York City in the 1950s and 1960s. Discussing how he came to writing, he said: "I read a lot in my early teens, got lost with the magic of words, the excitement of the early to late sixties, lots of Latin music, New York City, jazz as well, listening to uncles recite old Spanish poems from Puerto Rico." Mr. Cruz's first full-length collection was Snaps (Random House, 1969) followed by Mainland (1973). Mr. Cruz is a co-founder of both the East Harlem Gut Theatre in New York and the Before Columbus Foundation and has taught at the University of California at Berkeley and San Diego, San Francisco State College, and the University of Michigan.
Academy Chancellor Nathaniel Mackey has said that Mr. Cruz's "work has extended the linguistic, historical, and geographical horizons within which we think of American poetry, doing so with masterful music, intelligence, and humor."
Mr. Cruz’s most recent books of poetry are The Mountain in the Sea (Coffee House Press, 2006) and Maraca: New and Selected Poems 1965–2000 (2001). He is currently working on poems that will be a part of his first published collection in Spanish.
Ron Padgett was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1942. In 1960, Mr. Padgett moved to New York to attend Columbia University, where he studied with poet Kenneth Koch. His first collection of poems, Bean Spasms, written with Ted Berrigan, was published in 1967. Since then he has published several books of poetry, including the recent How to Be Perfect (Coffee House Press, 2007) and If I Were You: Collaborative Poems (2007).
Mr. Padgett has also published many volumes of prose, including Joe: A Memoir of Joe Brainard (Coffee House Press, 2004) and The Straight Line: Writings on Poetry & Poets (University of Michigan, 2000). His translations of French poetry and prose include Prose Poems by Pierre Reverdy (Black Square Editions, 2007). He has also written and edited books on education and writing, and for twenty years served as the publications director of Teachers & Writers Collaborative.
Recently, when asked how he became interested in poetry, Mr. Padgett said: "My junior high school English teacher assigned it. She liked it and I liked her, therefore I gave it a chance." Padgett is currently working on new poems, as well as collaborations with artists George Schneeman and Bertrand Dorny.
Academy Chancellor James Tate has written, "Ron Padgett's poems sing with absolutely true pitch. And they are human friendly. Their search for truths, both small and large, can be cause for laughter, or at least a thoughtful sigh."
The Board of Chancellors was established in 1946 in accordance to the guidelines set forth by the Academy's founder, Mrs. Marie Bullock, who stated:
These men and women 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' 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. 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 our 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.