|Cleveland Heights Poet Laureate Ray McNiece|
[photo by Herb Ascherman]
The Academy of American Poets announced that it is awarding a combined total of $1.1 million to its 2022 Poet Laureate Fellows. These 22 individuals, each of whom will receive $50,000, have been named poets laureate of states, cities, and counties, and have made positive contributions to their communities in these roles and beyond. Funds will support their respective public poetry programs in the year ahead as presented in their proposals to the Academy. In addition, the Academy will provide a total of $72,200 to eight local 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations that have agreed to support the Fellows’ proposed projects.
Ray McNiece, Poet Laureate Fellow, Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Ray McNiece is the author of several collections, including Breath Burns Away (Red Giant Press, 2019). The recipient of the Cleveland Arts Prize Lifetime Achievement Award in 2021, he works for both the Ohio Arts Council Arts in Education Residency Artist program and the Center for Arts Inspired Learning of Northeast Ohio. In collaboration with Heights Arts, McNiece will organize the “Poem for Cleveland Project” and create a mosaic of Cleveland voices through intergenerational and multicultural poetry workshops. These will be monthly community-based workshops established with the help of partner organizations that pair youth poets with elders to tell the story of Cleveland. The workshops will feature prompts of place created by youth poets and serve as a template to be shared virtually by the Center for the Book to help other Ohio communities create similar programs. The project will serve as a bridge between cultures, generations, and neighborhoods. It will conclude with an intergenerational reading and celebration at Cleveland Public Library’s main branch, sponsored by the Center for the Book and Heights Arts. An anthology of the work, Poem for Cleveland, will be published by Red Giant Press.
The 2022 Poet Laureate Fellows and the communities they serve are Emanuelee Outspoken Bean (Houston, TX), Cyrus Cassells (Texas), Andru Defeye (Sacramento, CA), Ashanti Files (Urbana, IL), B. K. Fischer (Westchester County, NY), Ashley M. Jones (Alabama), Holly Karapetkova (Arlington, VA), J. Drew Lanham (Edgefield, SC), Julia B. Levine (Davis, CA), Matt Mason (Nebraska), Airea D. Matthews (Philadelphia, PA), Ray McNiece (Cleveland Heights, OH), Huascar Medina (Kansas), KaNikki Jakarta (Alexandria, VA), Gailmarie Pahmeier (Nevada), Catherine Pierce (Mississippi), Rena Priest (Washington), Lynne Thompson (Los Angeles, CA), Emma Trelles (Santa Barbara, CA), Gwen Nell Westerman (Minnesota), Crystal Wilkinson (Kentucky), and Kealoha Wong (Hawaiʻi).