2022 Starshine and Clay Fellows

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BROOKLYN, NEW YORK (August 1, 2022) — Cave Canem and EcoTheo Collective are pleased to announce the recipients of the 2022 Starshine and Clay Fellowship, which provides creative and financial support to Black poets. The 2022 Fellowship have been awarded to Gracia Mwamba of California and RaJon Staunton of Missouri. They were selected by guest judge Airea D. Matthews.

Presented once a year to two poets, the fellowship offers $500, a featured LOGOS reading, a travel stipend and free lodging to attend the upcoming Wonder Festival (in 2022, part of the Texas Book Festival). In addition, fellows receive a one-to-one consultation with Airea D. Matthews, and will be published in the Autumn 2022 issue of EcoTheo Review.

The initiative is named in honor of  Lucille Clifton, and speaks to the mentorship Clifton offered Cave Canem Fellows during her tenure as Faculty at its annual Retreat. Over the past 25 years, Cave Canem has nurtured nearly 500 Black poets who have gone on to publish acclaimed works, win prestigious awards and become valued educators throughout the nation. 

Mwamba and Staunton are the second cohort of Starshine and Clay Fellows, which launched with a pilot program in 2021, and join Michael Frazier, Asmaa Jama, Oak Morse and Ashunda Norris in the honor.

Gracia “Cianga” Mwamba is a Congolese artist based in California, by way of South Africa. She was a semifinalist for the 2021 Cave Canem Poetry Prize and NFSPS Board Award. She has also received fellowships from UC Berkeley’s Arts and Research Center, Brooklyn Poets and a residency from Atlantic Center for the Arts. While preparing her debut collection, her work can be found in Rappahannock Review, Berkeley Fiction Review and her website cianga.com. When not creating art, Gracia can be found streaming on Twitch, reading or consuming questionable amounts of chocolate.

RaJon Staunton is a writer and editor from Beckley, West Virginia. Their poems have been published in print and online in Foglifter Journal, wildness, Teen Vogue, and Hobart, among other places. They were recently a finalist in the Variant Literature Microchap Contest. RaJon received their BA from Marshall University in Huntington, WV, and is currently the Social Media Editor at UnCollected Press.



ABOUT EcoTheo Collective

EcoTheo Collective is an arts nonprofit whose mission is to celebrate wonder, enliven conversations, and inspire commitments to ecology, spirituality, and art. EcoTheo Collective is the  the proud home of the Starshine and Clay Fellowship — a collaboration with Cave Canem that honors the legacy of Lucille Clifton and supports the next generation of Black poets — as well as the Lorca Latinx Poetry Prize, which facilitates various trans-oceanic platforms for poets to present their work—as a way to celebrate Federico García Lorca’s legacy of friendship across borders, and to globalize Latinx poetry in the 21st century. EcoTheo Collective hosts regular in-person and online events as part of the LOGOS series, which seeks to evoke transcendence through poetry, ritual, and conversation. LOGOS has featured poets such as U.S. Poets Laureate Rita Dove and Ada Límon, along with Pulitzer Prize winners Gregory Pardlo, Jericho Brown, Forrest Gander, and Jorie Graham. EcoTheo Collective also publishes EcoTheo Review, an online and quarterly print magazine, which was recently selected as a finalist for the Whiting Literary Magazine Prize. ETR publishes original art and writing that explore intersections between nature and faith. EcoTheo Collective also hosts the annual Wonder festival, which connects participants with the sacred beauty of places along with the power of literature and the arts to inspire, heal, and transform.