One grant will establish an Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellowship program, enabling poets serving in civic poet laureate positions to undertake innovative projects that engage residents and address important issues. Fellowships of between $50,000 and $100,000 each, totaling at least $1 million, will be awarded in April, which is National Poetry Month.
The second grant will support the Poetry Coalition, a national alliance of more than two dozen poetry organizations dedicated to promoting the value of poetry through joint programming. The grant will fund the coalition's work over the next four years and help establish a pilot fellowship program that places individuals in paid part-time positions at select member organizations, where they will learn about and assist with literary arts programming and administration.
"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, a poet herself. "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," said Academy of American Poets executive director Jennifer Benka. "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."