Ellen Bass, Forrest Gander, Terrance Hayes, and David St. John Named Academy of American Poets Chancellors

Posted on

Jan 04 2017

The Academy of American Poets is pleased to announce that Ellen BassForrest GanderTerrance Hayes, and David St. John have been named its newest Chancellors, an honorary position that has been held by some of the most distinguished poets in the United States, including W. H. AudenJohn AshberyElizabeth BishopLucille CliftonYusef KomunyakaaAdrienne Rich, and Mark Strand.

As new members of the Board of Chancellors, Bass, Gander, Hayes, and St. John will consult with the organization on matters of artistic programming, serve as judges for the organization’s largest prizes for poets, and act as ambassadors of poetry in the world at large. The new Chancellors were selected by the current members—Elizabeth AlexanderToi DerricotteLinda GregersonBrenda HillmanJane HirshfieldKhaled MattawaMarilyn NelsonAlicia OstrikerClaudia RankineAlberto Ríos, and Arthur Sze—and will be filling the seats vacated by Mark DotyJuan Felipe Herrera, and Anne Waldman, whose terms have concluded, as well as C. D. Wright’s seat, who passed away last year. Each Chancellor serves for a period of six years.

About the New Chancellors

Ellen Bass was born in Philadelphia and grew up in New Jersey. She received a BA from Goucher College and an MA in creative writing from Boston University, where she studied with Anne Sexton. She later said that Anne Sexton “encouraged me to write more, to expand, to go deeper and wider. She breathed life back into the process. Without her, I might have given up.”

She is the author of eight poetry collections, the most recent of which is Like a Beggar (Copper Canyon Press, 2014), which The New York Times notes “pulses with sex, humor and compassion.” She also worked with Florence Howe to edit the feminist poetry anthology No More Masks! An Anthology of Poems by Women (Doubleday, 1973).

In addition to her poetry, Ellen Bass has cowritten several works of nonfiction, including Free Your Mind: The Book for Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Youth—and Their Allies (Harper Perennial, 1996) with Kate Kaufman and, with Laura Davis, The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse (Perennial Library, 1988), which has been translated into ten languages.

She is the recipient of a fellowship from the California Arts Council, the Lambda Literary Award for Poetry, the Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry, and two Pushcart Prizes. She teaches in the low-residency MFA program at Pacific University and lives in Santa Cruz, California.

Forrest Gander was born in Barstow, California. He attended the College of William and Mary and received an MA from San Francisco State University. He holds degrees in both geology and literature. He is the author of several poetry collections, including Eye Against Eye (New Directions Press, 2005) and Torn Awake (New Directions Press, 2001).

He is the editor of Mouth to Mouth: 12 Contemporary Mexican Women Poets (Milkweed Editions, 1993), a bilingual anthology of contemporary Mexican poets and the translator of Then Come Back: The Lost Neruda Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 2016) and No Shelter: The Selected Poems of Pura López Colomé (Graywolf Press, 2002). His collection of essays, A Faithful Existence (Shoemaker & Hoard), was published in 2005.

“Forrest Gander is a Southern poet of a relatively rare kind, a restlessly experimental writer,” wrote poet Robert Hass.

Gander’s honors include a Whiting Award, two Gertrude Stein Awards for Innovative North American Writing, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and Yaddo. Gander is professor of English and comparative literature at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.

Terrance Hayes was born in Columbia, South Carolina, and received a BA from Coker College in Hartsville, South Carolina, and an MFA from the University of Pittsburgh writing program.

He is the author of How To Be Drawn (Penguin Books, 2015), a finalist for both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award; Lighthead (Penguin, 2010), which won the National Book Award for Poetry; Wind in a Box (Penguin, 2006); Hip Logic (Penguin, 2002), which won the 2001 National Poetry Series and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award; and Muscular Music (Tia Chucha Press, 1999), winner of the Kate Tufts Discovery Award.

About his work, poet Cornelius Eady has said: “First you’ll marvel at his skill, his near-perfect pitch, his disarming humor, his brilliant turns of phrase. Then you’ll notice the grace, the tenderness, the unblinking truth-telling just beneath his lines, the open and generous way he takes in our world.”

He has received many honors and awards, including a Whiting Writers Award, a Pushcart Prize, three Best American Poetry selections, as well as fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the MacArthur Foundation. He is professor of creative writing at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania and lives in Pittsburgh with his family.

David St. John was born in Fresno, California, and received his BA from California State University, Fresno, and an MFA from the University of Iowa.

His many books of poetry include The Window (Arctos Press, 2014); The Auroras (HarperCollins, 2012); The Face: A Novella in Verse (HarperPerennial, 2005); Prism (Arctos Press, 2002); The Red Leaves of Night (HarperCollins, 1999); and Study for the World’s Body: New and Selected Poems (1994), which was nominated for the National Book Award.

He is also the author of the volume of essays and interviews Where the Angels Come Toward Us (White Pine Press, 1995), and he coedited American Hybrid: A Norton Anthology of New Poetry (W. W. Norton, 2009) with Cole Swenson.

The poet W. S. Merwin has said of St. John’s work, “[it] has been distinguished from the start by its intimacy and subtlety, and by a disturbing force, the work of an urgent sensibility and a true ear.”

His awards include the Discovery/The Nation Prize, the James D. Phelan Prize, and the prix de Rome fellowship in literature. He has also received three National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships and a Guggenheim Fellowship. St. John currently lives in Los Angeles, where he teaches in the PhD program in creative writing and literature and is the Chair of English at the University of Southern California.

About the Academy of American Poets

The Academy of American Poets is the nation’s largest membership-based nonprofit organization championing poets and poetry. The organization produces Poets.org, the world’s largest publicly-funded website for poets and poetry; National Poetry Month; the popular Poem-a-Day series; American Poets magazine; resources for K-12 educators; and an annual series of poetry readings and special events. In addition, since its founding in 1934, the Academy has awarded more money to poets than any other organization through its American Poets Prizes.

Contact: Ryan Dzelzkalns, (212) 274-0343, ext. 15, [email protected]