THE CHANCELLORS OF THE ACADEMY OF AMERICAN POETS
STAND IN SUPPORT OF FEDERAL FUNDING FOR THE ARTS & HUMANITIES
In light of possible cuts to or the elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, for the first time in the history of the Academy of American Poets, the Board of Chancellors is issuing a joint statement.
Chancellors of the Academy of American Poets include National Book Critics Circle Award winner and best-selling poet Claudia Rankine, National Book Award winner Terrance Hayes, National Book Award finalist Jane Hirshfield, and Inaugural poet and Pulitzer Prize finalist Elizabeth Alexander.
We, the Chancellors of the Academy of American Poets, express our strongest possible support for federal funding for the arts and humanities, specifically for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. These Endowments have, over the past fifty years, fostered an educated, broadly informed, and creative America at every level, from sponsoring national awards to seeding grants that support local programs in schools, communities, military bases, hospitals, museums, and beyond, throughout the country. The Chancellors are extremely concerned, and unanimously and strongly hope and expect, that the current level of federal support for these invaluable services to the American people be maintained.
The Academy, the nation’s largest member-supported organization championing poets and poetry, has worked with and received funding from both the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities for a range of programs, including the first Poets-in-the-Schools program in 1966, the first major website for poetry in 1996, and a multimedia suite of free poetry lesson plans for K-12 teachers in 2016. In our own work alone, these programs and publications reach more than 20 million readers each year. Federal funding for the arts and humanities underwrites scores of other nonprofit poetry organizations and publishers, arts education programs, libraries, archives, as well as the work of individual poets. Without federal support, many of these efforts may be jeopardized.
Poetry matters. The arts and humanities encourage reflection, empathy, and imagination—all qualities necessary to our individual and collective success. American poetry and literature do more than preserve the unique stories of our citizens; they shape our national identity and understanding of our country’s unique strengths and challenges.
Often quoted lines by Langston Hughes remind us that American democracy is a destination we must strive towards:
O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
To end our strong half-century tradition of honoring and supporting the voices of our own country would be to approve the silencing of the voices and stories of those who have lived and come before us, of those who are living now, and of coming generations of children, who may well find themselves without the opportunity to have their own stories, poems, songs, and voices encouraged and heard.
About the Chancellors of the Academy of American Poets
The Academy of American Poets’ Board of Chancellors was established in 1946 and is an honorary group of esteemed poets that consults with the organization on artistic matters; elects the recipients of the organization’s largest prizes for poets; advocates for the organization’s programmatic work; and serves as ambassadors of poetry in the world at large. The current members are Elizabeth Alexander, Ellen Bass, Toi Derricotte, Forrest Gander, Linda Gregerson, Terrance Hayes, Brenda Hillman, Jane Hirshfield, Khaled Mattawa, Marilyn Nelson, Alicia Ostriker, Claudia Rankine, Alberto Ríos, David St. John, and Arthur Sze.
About the Academy of American Poets
The Academy of American Poets is the largest membership-based nonprofit organization fostering an appreciation for contemporary poetry and supporting American poets. The organization produces Poets.org, the world’s largest publicly-funded website for poets and poetry; National Poetry Month; the popular Poem-a-Day series; American Poets magazine; Teach This Poem and other resources for K-12 educators; an annual series of poetry readings and special events; and awards the American Poets Prizes. The organization’s programs and publications reach more than 20 million readers each year.