The Academy of American Poets Receives Historic $2.2 Million to Bolster Poetry Organizations and Local Poets Laureate's Projects

Posted on

Jan 15 2019
New York, NY (January 15, 2019)—In what is believed to be one of the largest awards made to support poetry in the United States by a philanthropic institution, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has made two grants to the Academy of American Poets totaling $2.2 million. The funds will enable the work of several poets serving in civic Poets Laureate positions, and of more than 20 poetry organizations who comprise a national Poetry Coalition
 
“We’re grateful to The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for recognizing and investing in the importance of the art of poetry in our country, especially as poetry readership has nearly doubled in the past five years,” said Michael Jacobs, Chairman of the Academy of American Poets.  
 
“Across the country, local Poets Laureate and poetry organizations enhance creativity, channel civic understanding, and help communities grapple with important issues,” said Mellon Foundation President Elizabeth Alexander. “Despite the recognition and esteem received from their communities, state and city poets laureate often do not receive resources commensurate with their creative output and public service. I hope that Mellon’s support will remind us of the power of language and human exchange that poetry uniquely offers.”
 
“Poetry provides the opportunity to reflect on language and meaning, as well as to learn about ourselves and one another. These extraordinary grants from the Mellon Foundation will enable us to offer funding to poets who are involved in the civic life of the communities they live in, and to help strengthen a network of poetry organizations across the country that present, publish, and promote poets,” said Jennifer Benka, executive director of the Academy of American Poets. 
 
One grant will launch a new Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellowship program to honor Poets Laureate of states, cities, counties, US territories, and/or Tribal nations and enable them to undertake impactful and innovative projects that will engage their fellow residents and address important issues with poetry. 
 
The Academy of American Poets will provide at least $1 million to Poets Laureate—in the form of $50,000–$100,000 awards—this April, which is National Poetry Month, an occasion founded by the organization in 1996 to draw attention to importance of poetry in our culture.

The number of local Poets Laureate positions has increased in the past ten years and the majority of these positions do not come with an honorarium. By providing new funds, the Academy of American Poets hopes to spotlight and encourage poets' important contributions to civic engagement. 
 
Guidelines for the Poets Laureate Fellowships are here. Applications from qualified Poets Laureate will be accepted from January 15 to March 3, 2019.

Serving on the panel that will recommend the Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellowships are: past US Poets Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera, Robert Pinksy, and Natasha Trethewey; National Student Poets Program founder and member of President Obama's Committee on the Arts and Humanities Olivia Morgan; and award-winning poets Natalie Diaz and Mark Nowak. The panel will be chaired by Eunice “Nicie” Panetta, executive producer and co-host of “Fresh," a podcast series in development about the freshman class of the 116th Congress, and former board chair of the Academy of American Poets; and Jennifer Benka, president and executive director of the Academy of American Poets.
 
The other grant will support the work of the Poetry Coalition, a national alliance founded in 2016 of more than 20 poetry organizations in eleven cities that are dedicated to working together to promote the value poets bring to our culture. 
 
The founding members of the Poetry Coalition have been meeting each November in part to plan joint programming on a theme of social importance, which is offered each March. Programs range from publications to panels, readings, and other public events. The March 2019 theme is “What Is It, Then, Between Us?: Poetry & Democracy,” which invokes a line by Walt Whitman in anticipation of the upcoming 200th anniversary of the poet’s birth on May 31, 2019.  
 
The grant will enable Poetry Coalition work over the next four years, as well as the creation of a pilot fellowship program that will place individuals in part-time, paid positions at select Poetry Coalition member organizations so they might learn about and assist with literary arts programming and administration. 
 
The founding members of the Poetry Coalition are: 
 
Beyond Baroque, Los Angeles, CA
CantoMundo, New York, NY
Cave Canem Foundation, Brooklyn, NY
Kundiman, New York, NY
Lambda Literary, Los Angeles, CA
Mass Poetry, Salem, MA
O, Miami, Miami, FL
The Poetry Center, San Francisco, CA
The Poetry Foundation, Chicago, IL 
The Poetry Project, New York, NY
Poets House, New York, NY
Split This Rock, Washington, D.C.
Urban Word/National Youth Poet Laureate Program, New York, NY & Los Angeles, CA
Woodland Pattern, Milwaukee, WI
Youth Speaks, San Francisco, CA
 
About the Academy of American Poets  
 
The Academy of American Poets is the nation’s leading champion of poets, poetry, and the work of poetry organizations nationwide. Founded in 1934, 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; Teach This Poem and other award-winning resources for K-12 educators; and an annual series of poetry readings and special events. In addition, the Academy of American Poets coordinates a national poetry coalition working together to promote the value poets bring to our culture and the important contribution poetry makes in the lives of people of all ages and backgrounds.