Board of Directors Elects New Executive Officers

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Cave Canem’s Board of Directors is pleased to announce its recently elected executive officers. Tyehimba Jess will serve as president, Novella Ford and Cornelius Eady as co-vice presidents, Allen Drexel as secretary, and Hao Wang as treasurer. The Board of Directors is delighted to welcome Jess, Ford, and Wang into their new roles, and is grateful to Eady and Drexel for continuing in the roles they’ve assumed since last year’s election. The organization extends tremendous thanks to former President Amanda Johnston for her service, and to Robert Polito for his extensive tenure as treasurer. As Cave Canem continues to expand its staff, programs, and services, so does its executive committee, which now has two vice presidents. The Board of Directors is eager to continue furthering Cave Canem’s mission, and looks forward to celebrating the organization’s 25th anniversary this summer. Please read more about our executive officers below.


Tyehimba Jess (President) is a Cave Canem alumni whose first poetry workshop experience was at Cave Canem’s second summer retreat in 1997. He also served as a Cave Canem retreat coordinator for three years (2002-2004). His first collection, Leadbelly, was a winner of the 2004 National Poetry Series. His second, Olio, received the 2017 Pulitzer Prize, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, The Midland Society Author’s Award in Poetry, and an Outstanding Contribution to Publishing Citation from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association. Jess, a veteran of the 2000 and 2001 Green Mill Poetry Slam Team, received a 2004 Literature Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and was a 2004–2005 Winter Fellow at the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center. He received 2016 Lannan Literary Award in Poetry. and a 2018 Guggenheim fellowship. Jess is a Distinguished Professor of English at College of Staten Island.

Novella Ford (Co-Vice President) is a cultural producer who loves poetry in all its forms. She connects diverse audiences to the archives and engages history through dialogue, performance, literature, and visual arts. She currently serves as the Associate Director of Public Programs and Exhibitions at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, a research division of The New York Public Library. Ford was first exposed to poetry in her grandmother’s library and grew to love it even more when she studied Gwendolyn Brooks as a student at Howard University. Her copy of Dudley Randall’s The Black Poets is always nearby. She has served on Cave Canem’s Board of Directors since 2019.

Poet/Playwright/Songwriter Cornelius Eady (Co-Vice President) was born in Rochester, New York in 1954. In 1996, he co-founded Cave Canem with poet Toi Derricotte. He is the author of several poetry collections, including Victims of the Latest Dance Craze, winner of the 1985 Lamont Prize; The Gathering of My Name, nominated for the 1992 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry; Brutal Imagination; and Hardheaded Weather. He wrote the libretto to Diedra Murray’s opera Running Man, which was short listed for the Pulitzer Prize in Theatre, and his verse play Brutal Imagination won the 2001 Oppenheimer Prize for the best first play from an American Playwright. His awards include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation. He was the Miller Family Endowed Chair in Literature and Writing and Professor in English and Theater at The University of Missouri-Columbia. Eady is currently Professor of English at SUNY Stony Brook Southampton.

Allen A. Drexel (Secretary) is a partner at the New York City law firm Gallet Dreyer & Berkey, LLP, where his practice concentrates in family/matrimonial law. An avid lover of poetry and fiction, Drexel was introduced to Cave Canem by Cave Canem fellow Charif Shanahan. He joined the Board of Directors in 2018 and has served as secretary since 2019. Outside his law practice and board service, Drexel is a fan of theater and modern/experimental dance, and he is a photographer whose work focuses on street and urban landscape photography. Drexel previously served on the board of HMI, the oldest and largest provider of services to underserved LGBTQIA youth.

Hao Wang (Treasurer) is a machine learning product manager at Capital One, with previous experience in finance and tech startups. He grew up in Kentucky, where he was blessed in becoming a member (and student of) the Affrilachian Poets. He is a graduate of the Huntsman Program at the University of Pennsylvania. He has been on Cave Canem’s Board of Directors since 2019. Wang and his family live in Jersey City, New Jersey.