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Red Earth MFA Director Receives Prestigious Fellowship

Jeanetta Calhoun Mish

The Academy of American Poets announced that Jeanetta Calhoun Mish, the poet laureate of Oklahoma and director of the Red Earth MFA program at Oklahoma City University, has been named an Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellow and will receive a $100,000 award in recognition of her literary merit and to support civic programs. Mish plans to use her award to present poetry workshops for students in public schools in underserved communities, and rural areas across the state that serve the economically underprivileged and/or people of color. She is one of 13 state or local poets laureate nationwide to be honored.

This new award, made possible by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and announced by The New York Times, is in keeping with this spring’s national poetry programming theme of Poetry & Democracy offered by the Poetry Coalition, an alliance of more than 20 organizations working together to promote the value poets bring to culture and the important contribution poetry makes in the lives of people of all ages and backgrounds.

Poets have an important role in culture and in communities all across the country, according to the academy. By supporting poets laureate at the state and local levels, the academy hopes to ensure that more people become acquainted with poets and poetry where they live and have an opportunity to benefit from innovative and groundbreaking programming close to home, said Michael Jacobs, chairman of the Academy of American Poets.

The academy called Mish’s work an example of how poetry can spark conversations and help people learn about one another’s lives and unique experiences. The academy is honored to help underwrite Mish and the other 12 Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellows, all of whom are exceptional leaders, said Jennifer Benka, executive director of the academy.

Mish was born in Hobart, Oklahoma, and raised in Wewoka. She received a bachelor’s degree and an MFA in English from the University of Texas and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Oklahoma. Mish is the author of “What I Learned at the War” (Lamar University Press, 2015) and “Work Is Love Made Visible: Collected Family Photographs and Poetry” (West End Press/University of New Mexico Press, 2009), winner of the 2010 Oklahoma Book Award for Poetry.

The Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellowships panel included past U.S. Poets Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera, Robert Pinsky and Natasha Trethewey; National Student Poets Program founder and member of President Barack Obama’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities Olivia Morgan; MacArthur Fellow Natalie Diaz; and Guggenheim Fellow Mark Nowak. The panel was co-chaired by Eunice “Nicie” Panetta, former board chair of the academy and executive producer and co-host of “Fresh,” a podcast series in development about the freshman class of the 116th Congress; and Benka, president and executive director of the Academy of American Poets. Final award decisions, informed by the panel and the scope of the projects, were made by the Academy of American Poets.

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. Founded in 1934 in New York City, 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 resources for K-12 educators; an annual series of poetry readings and special events; and awards the American Poets Prizes. The organization also coordinates the work of a national poetry coalition working to promote the value poets bring to culture and the important contribution poetry makes in the lives of people of all ages and backgrounds.

For additional information about the Academy of American Poets and the Poets Laureate Fellowships, visit: poets.org/academy-american-poets/2019-academy-american-poets-laureate-fellows

For more information about Jeanetta Calhoun Mish, visit: jeanettacalhounmish.com