January 23, 2012 — The Academy of American Poets announced today that Tree Swenson is stepping down from her role as Executive Director, following a 10-year tenure at the literary organization. In March, Ms. Swenson will assume the position of Executive Director at Richard Hugo House in Seattle, Washington.
During her time at the Academy of American Poets, Ms. Swenson has overseen the creation of many important programs, including Poetry & the Creative Mind (2003), Poem in Your Pocket Day (2004), an outdoor reading series in New York City parks (2005), digitization of the Academy's Audio Archive (2007), the Poets Forum (2007), and the Poem-a-Day email series (2010), which is hosted on the Academy's enormously popular website Poets.org.
Raised in Montana, Ms. Swenson lived in Santa Barbara and Denver before moving to Port Townsend, Washington in 1974. She co-founded Copper Canyon Press and was publisher and executive director there for 20 years. She moved to Boston in 1993, where she was the director of programs for the Massachusetts Cultural Council before joining the Academy of American Poets on April 1, 2002.
Of Ms. Swenson's departure, Board Chairman Eunice J. Panetta said, "In her decade of distinguished service to the Academy of American Poets, Tree Swenson has carried forward the Academy's tradition of programmatic innovation, expanding audiences for our extraordinary poetic heritage, and enriching the conversation in our vibrant world of contemporary poetry. She has been a dedicated leader with a luminous spirit and an inspiration to all of us who love poetry. We wish her well in her future endeavors."
Ms. Swenson said, "Long before I moved to New York to lead the organization, I believed (and continue to believe today) that the Academy of American Poets was the premier literary organization in the country, and I am grateful beyond measure to have had this decade to contribute to it. Believing as I do in the power of change and renewal, I know that this is the right time for the Academy to open its next chapter, and for me to return to the Northwest and my roots. My time at the Academy of American Poets has been profound and intense, moving and rewarding, and these ten years have sped by."
Beth Harrison, the Academy's Associate Director, has assumed the role of Interim Executive Director, with Ms. Swenson serving as a Senior Advisor to the Academy through early April. Ms. Harrison has worked at the Academy since 2001. The Board of Directors has convened a search committee, chaired by Michael Jacobs, to carry out a national search for a successor.
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 nearly four generations, the Academy has connected millions of people to great poetry through programs such as National Poetry Month, Poets.org, the Poetry Audio Archive, American Poet magazine, 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.