National recognition for Columbia, Greenville poets laureate

Among 23 receiving $50,000 fellowships

The Academy of American Poets announced its 2023 Poet Laureate Fellows this week, and the list includes two notable #SCartists.

Columbia poet laureate Jennifer Bartell Boykin (left) and Greenville poet laureate Glenis Redmond (right) are among 23 poets laureate from across the U.S. who will receive $50,000 fellowships, making a combined total of $1.1 million. The 23 fellows serve as poets laureate of states, counties, and cities across the United States and will be leading public poetry programs in their respective communities in 2023/2024.

The academy will provide and additional $114,500 total in matching grants to help secure the pledged support of the fellows’ projects from 12 local 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations.

“The Academy of American Poets celebrates the unique position poets laureate occupy at state and local levels, elevating the possibilities poetry can bring to community conversations and reminding us that our national spirit can be nourished by the power of the written and spoken word,” said Ricardo Maldonado, president and executive director of the academy.

“We are inspired by these projects—which include intergenerational workshops, city- and statewide festivals, community-generated publications, and more—that the 23 fellows will carry out, and grateful to the Mellon Foundation and the nonprofit organizations supporting this life-affirming work.”

Through its Poet Laureate Fellowship program, the Academy of American Poets—a leading financial supporter of poets in the United States—has awarded a total of $5.45 million in fellowships to 124 poets laureate since 2019, plus more than $360,000 in matching grants to secure project support from 47 local 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations. In addition to helping these fellows reach tens of thousands of individuals in 92 different communities through creative and timely poetry programs, the academy has helped encourage the creation of more than 40 new poet laureate positions across the nation since launching this program. The fellowships are made possible by the Mellon Foundation, which awarded the academy two grants to fund the program.

“Collectively the voice and vision of these 23 poets laureate will bring together community members through the craft and creativity of poetry and illuminate place through words,” said Elizabeth Alexander, president of the Mellon Foundation. “We are proud to continue our support of the Poet Laureate Fellowship program and to honor the Academy of American Poets’ enduring commitment to the unique power of poetry.”

The following panelists recommended the recipients of the 2023 Fellowships: Francisco Aragón, the founding director of Letras Latinas at Notre Dame’s Institute for Latino Studies; Ed Madden, the former poet laureate of Columbia, South Carolina; Olivia Morgan, the founder of National Student Poets; and Tracy K. Smith, former U.S. poet laureate and a member of the Academy’s Board of Chancellors. Final award decisions were approved by members of the Academy of American Poets’ board of directors.

Madden was a 2022 recipient of the South Carolina Governor’s Award for the Arts in the individual category.

The 2023 Poet Laureate Fellows

(The communities they serve are noted parenthetically.)

  • Diannely Antigua (Portsmouth, New Hampshire)
  • Lisa Bickmore (Utah)
  • Jennifer Bartell Boykin (Columbia, South Carolina)
  • Joseph Bruchac (Saratoga Springs, New York)
  • Lauren Camp (New Mexico)
  • Laura Da’ (Redmond, Washington)
  • Oliver de la Paz (Worcester, Massachusetts)
  • Farnaz Fatemi (Santa Cruz County, California)
  • Nicholas Gulig (Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin)
  • Peter J. Harris and Carla Rachel Sameth (Altadena, California)
  • Taylor Johnson (Takoma Park, Maryland)
  • Yalie Saweda Kamara (Cincinnati)
  • Brandy Nālani McDougall (Hawaiʻi)
  • Gloria Muñoz (St. Petersburg, Florida)
  • Sharon Kennedy-Nolle (Sullivan County, New York)
  • Shin Yu Pai (Seattle)
  • Willie Perdomo (New York State)
  • Jason Magabo Perez (San Diego)
  • Glenis Redmond (Greenville, South Carolina)
  • Erin Elizabeth Smith (Oak Ridge, Tennessee)
  • Junious Ward (Charlotte)
  • Joaquín Zihuatanejo (Dallas)

About the S.C. recipients

Jennifer Bartell Boykin will partner with The Watering Hole to conduct debate slam poetry workshops with Columbia youth that will culminate in a debate slam at the Soda City Poetry Festival. The festival—open to the public and poets of all ages—will also feature panels, readings, a book fair, open mics, an ekphrasis pop-up, and more. Some of the youth who participate in Boykin’s workshops will offer a presentation about their experiences at a festival panel.

Boykin is the author of Traveling Mercy (Finishing Line Press, 2023), which will be published under the name Jennifer Bartell. She teaches creative writing and English at Spring Valley High School in Columbia. A Spectrum Scholar (American Library Association) and an Augusta Baker Scholar (University of South Carolina), she has fellowships from Callaloo and The Watering Hole.

Glenis Redmond will work with the Metropolitan Arts Council to launch “Verse and Visual,” a project pairing 10 poets with 10 visual artists for an ekphrastic collaboration; commission 10 poets to write work inspired by Greenville City Parks; present local and regional poets at Artisphere, Greenville’s largest arts festival; aid the Arts in Public Places Commission to appoint Greenville’s first youth poet laureate; continue both her Little Free Libraries project and Unity Park Poetry workshops with the city of Greenville; and—in partnership with the Peace Center—convene past and present poets laureate Jaki Shelton Green, Joy Harjo, Ed Madden, and Crystal Wilkinson for a poet laureate reading in Greenville on May 10, 2024.

Redmond is a Cave Canem alumna and the author of six books of poetry. Her recent book The Listening Skin (Four Way Books, 2022) was long listed for the PEN American Open Book Award and the Julie Suk Award. Her honors also include South Carolina’s highest arts award, the Governor’s Award, and she was inducted into the South Carolina Academy of Authors. As a Kennedy Center Teaching Artist, she has created and facilitated poetry workshops for school districts across the country. She is the inaugural poet laureate of Greenville.