board member

Jennifer Benka

For much of her more than 25 years in nonprofit management, Jen has served national organizations dedicated to writing and poetry. Before joining the Academy of American Poets as President and Executive Director, Jen was the National Director of Development and Marketing for 826 National, a youth writing organization based in San Francisco, which was founded by the award-winning author Dave Eggers. At 826, Jen helped lead trainings for nonprofit leaders around the world interested in developing arts and literacy programs. Before 826, she helped launch The Bay Citizen, a $17 million journalism startup affiliated with The New York Times, serving as the Vice President of Development. Prior to her time in the Bay Area, she served, for nearly a decade, as the Managing Director of Poets & Writers in New York City, where she was the deputy administrative officer, and chief fundraising and marketing officer. At Poets & Writers, Jen oversaw magazine, advertising, web, and program staff, and helped lead a multi-million dollar capital campaign that expanded a national grantmaking program supporting poetry readings and workshops, and launched the Jackson Poetry Prize. She has served on the Boards of the local literary organizations Small Press Traffic in San Francisco and Woodland Pattern Book Center in Milwaukee; on arts and literature panels for the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Milwaukee County, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, and the New York State Council on the Arts; and as a recommender and judge for numerous poetry fellowships, awards, and contests, including the Lambda Literary Awards, the National Student Poets, and National Youth Poet Laureate. As an advocate for American poets and poetry, and for the work of poetry organizations nationwide, Jen speaks frequently on panels and to media, and has been interviewed by media outlets including The Associated PressThe Chicago Review of Books, NewsdayPoets & Writers, Publishers WeeklyThe New York Times, The St. Louis Post-DispatchThe Washington Post, ABC News, CNN, and PBS.

Jen is also the author of the poetry collections Pinko (Hanging Loose Press, 2011) and A Box of Longing With Fifty Drawers (Soft Skull Press, 2005); the artist book Preamble, a collaboration with artist Mark Wagner (Booklyn, 2003); and co-author, with poet Carol Mirakove, of the chapbook, 1,138 (Belladonna, 2007). Her poems, essays, and opinion pieces have appeared in numerous publications, including the AwlBrooklyn RailHuffington PostCrossing State Lines: An American Renga (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011), Reading Queer: Poetry in a Time of Chaos (Anhinga Press, 2018), and Feminisms in Motion (AK Press, 2018). Having a commitment to bringing poetry into the public sphere, she has organized several large-scale poetry events in New York City, including a 24-hour marathon reading of the collected poems of Emily Dickinson, the inaugural event at The Bowery Poetry Club. Jen holds a BA degree in Journalism from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and an MFA degree in poetry from The New School in New York, New York.

Contact Jen