Acclaimed poet Camille Dungy, a University Distinguished Professor in Colorado State University’s Department of English, has received the Academy of American Poets Fellowship.
Established in 1936 and given in memory of James Ingram Merrill, with generous support from the T. S. Eliot Foundation, this prize recognizes distinguished poetic achievement and carries with it a stipend of $25,000 and a residency at the Eliot summer home in Gloucester, Massachusetts.
Fellows are nominated and elected by a majority vote of the Academy’s Board of Chancellors. Past recipients include Gwendolyn Brooks, Robert Frost and Tracy K. Smith.
Dungy is the author of Trophic Cascade (Wesleyan University Press, 2017), which won the 2018 Colorado Book Award; Smith Blue (Southern Illinois University Press, 2011), winner of the 2010 Crab Orchard Open Book Prize; Suck on the Marrow (Red Hen Press, 2010); and What to Eat, What to Drink, What to Leave for Poison (Red Hen Press, 2006).
She is also the author of Guidebook to Relative Strangers: Journeys into Race, Motherhood, and History (W. W. Norton, 2017); the editor of Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry (University of Georgia Press, 2009); and the co-editor of From the Fishouse: An Anthology of Poems that Sing, Rhyme, Resound, Syncopate, Alliterate, and Just Plain Sound Great (Persea Books, 2009).
Among Dungy’s honors are fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, Cave Canem, and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. She is also a two-time recipient of the Northern California Book Award, in 2010 and 2011, and a Silver Medal Winner of the California Book Award. Her work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine and The New Yorker magazine, and she read one of her poems during the Democratic National Convention in 2020.
“Whether she’s writing riveting lyrics, formally inventive sonnets, innovative environmental poetry or intimate asides from what she calls ‘the timeless space of the domestic,’ Camille Dungy has expanded poetry in the last few decades,” Academy of American Poets Chancellor Brenda Hillman said. “In what has been called ‘a series of survival narratives,’ Dungy’s masterful books weave accounts of family, of Black history, and of the earth’s evolution with particular insight. In a fascinating array of forms, her work brings together research and wisdom, placing metaphors for endangered species beside stories of parenting and life cycles.”
She added that Dungy writes both joyful arguments and cautionary tales.
“As an editor of the ground-breaking anthology Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry, she has profoundly reconfigured the ‘nature poem’ to include centuries of Black experience,” Hillman said. “As an essayist in Guidebook to Relative Strangers: Journeys into Race, Motherhood and History, she writes of global encounters with others as a working mother and as a traveling poet. Her work inspires us with its feminist power and does not cordon off romantic and modernist literary traditions from contemporary ones. Camille Dungy is a poet of tremendous intellect and great compassion; her work gives new meaning to poetry of the self and the community by showing the interconnectedness of all beings.”