The Academy of American Poets has awarded Louisiana Poet Laureate John Warner Smith a prestigious Laureate Fellowship, given to honor poets of literary merit serving in civic positions around the country.
Smith, who was named to the Poet Laureate position in 2019 by Governor John Bel Edwards, received $50,000 as part of the award to produce meaningful, impactful and innovative projects in Louisiana. In partnership with the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities and local schools, Smith will conduct youth poetry workshops in four under-resourced parishes in northeast Louisiana's Delta parishes.
"As we face the crisis of the Covid-19 pandemic, more and more people are turning to poetry for comfort and courage. We are honored and humbled in this moment of great need to fund poets who are talented artists and community organizers, who will most certainly help guide their communities forward," said Jennifer Benka, President and Executive Director of the Academy of American Poets.
Smith joins 23 other poets around the country who received a Laureate Fellowship. He earned his Master of Fine Arts at the University of New Orleans and is the author of four published collections of poetry. A Cave Canem fellow, Smith has directed Education's Next Horizon and teaches English at Southern University in Baton Rouge.
"John Warner Smith's writing captures the human experience through meaningful, passionate poetry that moves your emotions. John is not only a talented and gifted poet, he is a trailblazer who devotes himself to education and the greater good of the community," Gov. Edwards said when announcing Smith's appointment to the Poet Laureate position.
Smith's poems have appeared in numerous literary journals across the country, including Ploughshares, Callaloo, North American Review and Missouri Review, and he is the winner of the 2019 Linda Hodge Bromberg Poetry Award. Much of his poetry draws upon African American history and his personal experiences of growing up and living in the South.
"Here at the LEH we are proud to not only manage the Poet Laureate selection process, but also to support meaningful interaction with poetry around the state," said LEH President/Executive Director Miranda
Restovic. "John has worked hard to make himself available across Louisiana in person and during the COVID-19 crisis online, and this recognition from the academy confirms what we already knew-he is a poet of extraordinary talent and commitment."
The Academy of American Poets has awarded 23 individuals with Laureate Fellowships to lead civic poetry programs in their respective communities in the year ahead. They will each receive $50,000 for a combined total of $1.1 million. The Academy also awarded the LEH a $9,000 matching gift in support of Louisiana Poet Laureate programming.
The fellowship program is made possible by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. For more information about the fellowship, including the full list of recipients, visit poets.org/academy-american-poets-awards-1-million-poets-laureate.
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