Wednesday, December 2, 2015

African American poets and the Cave Canem Poetry Prize

Reginald Harris's Autogeography was a winner of the Cave Canem Northwestern University Press Poetry Prize

The Cave Canem Foundation is one of the most important institutions in African American poetry. In addition to offering summer writing retreats/workshops and sponsoring poetry readings and other activities, Cave Canem, which began in 1996, serves as a vital connector, linking poets to a wide range of opportunities and resources.  

Since 1999, the organization has offered an annual first-book award, "which is dedicated to the discovery of exceptional manuscripts by black poets of African descent."  The award has been a key launching pad for the careers of prominent poets, including Natasha Trethewey and Tracy K. Smith, both of whom later earned Pulitzer Prizes in Poetry. Awards beget awards.  

The emergence of the Cave Canem Poetry Prize coincides with a shift in poetry awards, where the National Book Award, the Guggenheim Fellowship, and Whiting Writers' Award, for instance, began to bestow honors on black poets at an increasing rate. (Of course, it's worth noting that awards for white writers have also increased, in part because there are simply more awards today than 20 years ago and 50 years ago).      
In 2009, Cave Canem began offering a Northwestern University Press Poetry Prize. That prize is given biennially for a second book of poetry by an African American poet.      

Here's a list of the recipients of the Cave Canem prizes so far: 
Cave Canem poetry prize
1999: Natasha Trethewey 
2000: Major Jackson
2001: Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon
2002: Tracy K. Smith
2003: Kyle Dargan
2004: Amber Flora Thomas
2005: Constance Quarterman Bridges
2006: Dawn Lundy Martin
2007: Ronaldo V. Wilson
2009: Gary Jackson
2010: Iain Haley Pollock
2011: Nicole Terez Dutton
2012: Dexter Booth
2013: F. Douglas Brown
2014: Rickey Laurentiis
2015: Donika Kelly
2016: Natalie J. Graham
2017: Julian Randall

Cave Canem Northwestern University Press Poetry Prize
2009: Indigo Moor
2010: Vievee Francis
2012: Reginald Harris
2014: Jonathan Moody
2016: Laura Swearingen-Steadwell
A Notebook on prizes, awards & fellowships

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