April Member Spotlight: Cave Canem

Cave Canem was founded by Toi Derricotte and Cornelius Eady in 1996 to remedy the underrepresentation and isolation of African-American poets in the literary landscape. That year, Cave Canem welcomed the inaugural cohort of Fellows to our Retreat—a residency of intensive poetry workshops and readings, which offers an unparalleled opportunity to join a community of peers and study with a faculty of renowned poets—at Mount St. Alphonsus Seminary, in Esopus, New York. Since 2003, University of Pittsburgh|Greensburg has hosted the flagship program. Cave Canem Fellowships have supported more than 500 poets, many of whom have gone on to distinguished literary careers, including winners of the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize, recipients of the MacArthur Fellowship, and Poets Laureate.

Cave Canem offers a suite of core programs that consists of  Fellowships, Regional Workshops, Prizes, and a Legacy Series, as well as readings and other presentations that highlight the poetry of our Fellows and that of the African diaspora. Programs are open to the general public, offering Black poets exposure to new audiences and new audiences exposure to Black poetry. Our programs and publications enlarge the American literary canon; democratize archives; and expand the notion of what is possible and valuable in a poem for students, aspiring poets, and readers.

Lisa Willis, Executive Director, Cave Canem

“Black poets and literary arts organizations have made significant contributions to the American and global cultural landscapes. As we continue doing our part to diversify and contribute to the arts ecosystem Cave Canem is excited to be in community with its grantmaking colleagues and eventually share more on the research we are conducting to understand what has made our community so resilient, and to share our findings on what is required to ensure Black literary arts service organizations survive and thrive well into the future.

In addition to the direct support of Black poets through prizes and fees; Cave Canem began its Fellows & Faculty Fund in 2020 to help support members of our community during a time of global hardship. As we continue to foster community across the diaspora our re-granting program has since expanded to include both individual and project grants to serve as a resource for our poets to nurture their poetic pursuits and make access to Black Poetry more equitable. We are excited to continue this important work and to join GIA as a National Partner as of February 2024.”

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You can learn more about the Cave Canem on the photo credits page.