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Cave Canem Foundation

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Title: Cave Canem Foundation  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Index of articles related to African Americans, Roger Bonair-Agard, Cornelius Eady, John Keene (writer), Natasha Trethewey
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Cave Canem Foundation

Cave Canem Foundation is an American 501(c)(3) organization established to remedy the under-representation and isolation of African American poets in Master of Fine Arts (MFA) programs and writing workshops across the United States. It was founded in 1996 by poets Toi Derricotte and Cornelius Eady and is based in Brooklyn, New York.

According to the foundation's mission statement, Cave Canem "is a home for the many voices of African American poetry and is committed to cultivating the artistic and professional growth of African American poets."[1] Cave Canem sponsors several programs, including an annual summer fellows' retreat, regional workshops, first- and second-book poetry prizes, anthology publication and national readings and panels. The organization has also published two anthologies, Gathering Ground: A Reader Celebrating Cave Canem’s First Decade, edited by Toi Derricotte and Cornelius Eady (University of Michigan Press, 2006), and The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South, edited by Nikky Finney (The University of Georgia Press, 2007).


Founded in 1996 by poets Toi Derricotte and Cornelius Eady, Cave Canem Foundation began as a week-long writing retreat for selected African American poets at Mount St. Alphonsus Conference Center in Esopus, New York. Since then, Cave Canem "has grown from an initial gathering of 26 poets to become an influential movement with a renowned faculty and a high-achieving national fellowship" of over 300.[1][2]

Selected Programs


Currently held annually at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg, Pennsylvania, Cave Canem’s tuition-free retreat comprises a week of faculty-led writing workshops and poetry readings for African American poets. Accepted applicants (fellows) are invited to participate for a maximum of three summers within a five-year period.[3] Some faculty include inaugural poet, Elizabeth Alexander; Pulitzer Prize winner, Yusef Komunyakaa; and National Book Award finalists, Patricia Smith and Carl Phillips.[4]

Book Prizes

Cave Canem Foundation sponsors two annual book prizes: the Cave Canem Poetry Prize, established in 1999, awarded to an exceptional first book by an African American poet and published by the University of Pittsburgh Press;[5] and the Cave Canem Northwestern University Press Poetry Prize, a second-book award established in 2009 that “celebrates and publishes works of lasting cultural value and literary excellence” by African American poets.[6]

Legacy Conversations

Established in 2001, these moderated discussions feature poets and scholars who "have played historic roles in African American poetry."[7] Participants have included Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott, Pulitzer Prize winner Rita Dove, and poet and activist Amiri Baraka.

Poets on Craft Series

Launched in 2008, Poets on Craft features “award-winning poets in the early-to-middle stages of their careers. Poets meet in moderated conversation, discussing aesthetics, the role of the contemporary poet and other topical issues.”[8] Participants have included National Book Critics Circle Award finalist, Major Jackson, and Walt Whitman Award winner, Suji Kwock Kim.

Regional Workshops

Established in 1999, workshops for emerging poets of color are held semi-annually in New York City and, more recently, in Columbia, South Carolina in partnership with the South Carolina Poetry Initiative. Instructors have included former Poet Laureate of Connecticut, Marilyn Nelson, Whiting Writers' Award winner Tyehimba Jess, and American Book Award winner, Kimiko Hahn.[9]

Former Fellows (Notable Partial List)

Opal Palmer Adisa, Samiya Bashir, Reginald Dwayne Betts, Tara Betts, Roger Bonair-Agard, Jericho Brown, Aya de Leon, Camille Dungy, Ross Gay, Terrance Hayes, M. Ayodele Heath, Major Jackson, Tyehimba Jess, A. Van Jordan, Douglas Kearney, Adrian Matejka, Shara McCallum, Constance Merritt, Lenard Moore, Tracie Morris, Harryette Mullen, Mendi Obadike, Gregory Pardlo, Patricia Smith, Frank X Walker


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