2023 Fellows & Faculty Fund Project Grantees

Graphic announcing Cave Canem Fellows & Faculty Fund Project Grantees furthering accessibility to Black poetry"
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BROOKLYN, New York (May 23, 2023) — Cave Canem is excited to announce its 2023 Fellows & Faculty Fund Project Grantees Sheila Carter-JonesMary-Alice DanielTaylor Johnson, and Arisa White.

Due to the support of donors like you and the Poetry Foundation, the fund has now been expanded to offer increased resources to Fellows and Faculty, with grants of $5,000 for projects and $500 for individual support.

(sub)Verses Social Collective
Sheila Carter-Jones

(sub)Verses Social Collective is a literary collective in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania modeled after house socials made popular during the era where “No Blacks Allowed” signs wallpapered this nation. (sub)Verses Social Collective comes from the need to create a safe and celebratory place for Black women poets and writers in the Pittsburgh community to express and share their life experiences through poetry and prose. The (sub)Verses Social Collective was established to be that “social” organization to offer a platform for Black women poets and writers to share their voices, work their strengths, continue to learn and practice the craft and art of writing, and facilitate writing workshops for all ages (especially young voices in the community). Through weekly readings in summer, The Collective’s aim is to recognize, promote, and encourage Black women poets at all levels.

Sheila L. Carter-Jones is the author of Three Birds Deep (selected by Elizabeth Alexander as the winner of the Naomi Long Madgett Poetry Book Award) and the chapbook Blackberry Cobbler Song. Her chapbook Crooked Star Dream Book was named Honorable Mention for the New York Center for Book Arts Chapbook Contest. Carter-Jones taught in the Pittsburgh Public Schools and is a Nationally Board Certified Teacher. She also taught in Chatham University’s and the University of Pittsburgh’s Education Departments. She earned her BA from Carnegie Mellon University and both a Master’s in Education and PhD from the University of Pittsburgh. She is a fellow of Cave Canem, Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop and a Walter Dakin Fellow of the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. Her poetry has been published in Crossing Limits, Pittsburgh Quarterly, Pennsylvania Review, Tri-State Anthology, Riverspeak, Flights (the literary magazine of Sinclair College), Coal: A Poetry Anthology, City Paper, Cave Canem Anthology, Jewish Currents, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, several volumes of Carlow University’s Voices from the Attic anthologies and other anthologies and journals. Her newest book is forthcoming from BOA Editions in spring of 2024.

Photo courtesy of Corey Lankford

The Doors of No Return Digital Platform
Mary-Alice Daniel

A concoction of three religions, four languages, and 33 addresses across three continents has made Mary-Alice Daniel the writer she is. Grappling with these complex origins shapes her worldview. She is Black, American, African–and her poetry draws upon her erratic experiences across Africa, America, and England. From this perspective, she seeks to launch a digital platform that is positioned around the “Doors of No Return,” the gateways from which her ancestors were stolen during the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, positioned at the mouths of castles standing at various slave ports. Once the enslaved crossed this threshold, it was the last they saw of home. Reimagining these doors as points of reentry in addition to rupture, her platform will bind the literary descendants of the Diaspora—ADOS, immigrants, and exiles. Her digital platform will be a generative network that stretches far beyond a website to include an experience—an interactive expedition through diasporic narratives that provides a platform to revive endangered, traditional forms of storytelling sessions.

Mary-Alice Daniel was born near the border between Niger/Nigeria, then raised in England and Tennessee. Her writing has appeared in American Poetry Review, The Iowa Review, Prairie Schooner, New England Review, The Yale Review, Callaloo, and Best New PoetsMass for Shut-Ins, her first book of poetry, won the Yale Younger Poets Prize and was published in March 2023. Last November, Ecco/Harper Collins published her first  book of prose, a migratory memoir. A Coastline Is an Immeasurable Thing was People’s Book of the Week and one of Kirkus’s Best Nonfiction Books of 2022.  She holds an MFA from the University of Michigan and a PhD from the University of  Southern California. She is currently working on her third and fourth books as a  postdoctoral research fellow at Brown University.

Photo courtesy of Mary-Alice Daniel.

The Green Way Reading Series
Taylor Johnson

The Green Way Reading Series will center emerging Black poets and artists in interdisciplinary, intergenerational and cross-regional dialogues around the future of poetry as it is being imagined today. Readings will present three poets, including those from the Washington, DC area as well as across the country. The series will take place between June and November 2023 on the first Sunday of each month and feature a workshop earlier in the day hosted by one of the invited poets. Each reading will close with an open reflection and question session where the poets and audience members can engage with each other. The goal of the series is to continue building the local community around poetry, and is inspired by the work of emerging writers, especially Black artists and those who create outside of academia (as they re-vision the world of literature and broaden the possibilities of language). Free and open to the public, all events will focus on Takoma Park and the DC region, supporting a desire to create more spaces to share and engage poetry in a setting that is thoughtful and accessible.

Taylor Johnson is from Washington, DC. He is the author of Inheritance (Alice James Books, 2020) and a winner of the Norma Farber First Book Award from the Poetry Society of America. His work appears in Poetry Magazine, The Paris Review, The Baffler, Scalawag, and elsewhere. Johnson is a Cave Canem graduate fellow and a recipient of the Larry Neal Writers’ Award from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, as well as the Judith A. Markowitz Award for Emerging Writers from Lambda Literary. Taylor was the inaugural 2022 Poet-in-Residence at the Guggenheim Museum. He is the Poet Laureate of Takoma Park, Maryland.

Photo courtesy of S*an D. Henry-Smith

Post Pardon: The Opera
Arisa White

Post Pardon: The Opera is an Afro-speculative opera in development by librettist and poet Arisa White and composer Jessica Jones. Set between the material and spiritual worlds, where three females’ lives intersect because of a murder-suicide, the opera is a transgenerational apology. From the afterlife, a mother attempts to heal her relationship with two daughters, one living and one dead. Post Pardon: The Opera, with its concern for gendered violence, is a lyrical and mythical world splitting open with a Black woman’s song. Adapted from White’s eponymous poetry chapbook, published by Mouthfeel Press in 2011, Post Pardon was inspired by poet Reetika Vazirani—who killed her two-year-old son and then took her own life in the summer of 2003. White was struck by these events, having met Vazirani and Jehan Komunyakaa a few weeks prior to their deaths. As a device to non-judgmentally enter the interior landscape of a woman who contemplates murder-suicide, the  libretto employs Caribbean mythologies and West African cosmologies to explore the concept of  inherited sorrow.

Arisa White is an Associate Professor of English and Creative Writing at Colby College, the author of the collections Who’s Your Daddy, You’re the Most Beautiful Thing That Happened, A Penny Saved, and Hurrah’s Nest. She is the co-editor of the anthology Home Is Where You Queer Your Heart and co-author of Biddy Mason Speaks Up, the second book in the Fighting for Justice Series for young readers. Her poetry is widely published and her collections have been nominated for an NAACP Image Award, Lambda Literary Award, and have won the Per Diem Poetry Prize, Maine Literary Award, Nautilus Book Award, Independent Publisher Book Award, and Golden Crown Literary Award. As the creator of the Beautiful Things Project, White curates poetic collaborations that are rooted in Black queer women’s ways of knowing. She is a Cave Canem fellow and serves on the board of directors for Foglifter Press, as well as the Community Advisory Board for Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Currently, in collaboration with the composer Jessica Jones, White is developing Post Pardon: The Opera, which will premiere in 2025.

Photo courtesy of Caitlin Penna