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The Retreat

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“There is no place on this planet, no ground, no air, no sanctuary, no wharf, no hermitage, no refuge, no time, like the one week each summer when Black poets descend on an unsuspecting space and it becomes Cave Canem.”
Nikky Finney, The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South

Cave Canem’s week-long retreat is held annually at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg, Pennsylvania. Black poets of African descent, ages 21 and over, are eligible to apply. Once accepted, poets become “fellows.” Most are invited to attend two additional retreats within a five-year period.

A retreat residency offers an unparalleled opportunity to study with a world-class faculty and join a community of peers. Some fellows hail from the spoken word tradition, others focus on the text. Some are formalists, others work at the cutting edge of experimentation. All are united by a common purpose to improve their craft and find productive space, as Harryette Mullen says, “where black poets, individually and collectively, can inspire and be inspired by others, relieved of any obligation to explain or defend their blackness.”

2021 Retreat

Cancelation Notice

Cave Canem has been closely following reports on the progression of the COVID-19 pandemic and has made the decision to cancel the 2021 Cave Canem Retreat. While this is very unfortunate, it was also necessary in order to prioritize the health and safety of our fellows, faculty and staff. We look forward to seeing current fellows and welcoming new poets in summer 2022. In the meantime, please engage in our spring 2021 programs. Sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to stay updated on our public programs, workshops, fellowships, and book prizes. We are grateful for your continued support of Cave Canem.

Modifications to the retreat’s previous schedule and fee structure have been made to bring expenses into line with finite financial and human resources, and to ensure the program’s sustainability. Additional benefits are a less demanding agenda for staff, fellows and faculty, and allowing staff more time to respond to fellows’ needs and ideas. 

Fees are assessed on a sliding scale. Tuition is $1,050 and Room-and-Board is $590. Fellows pay $90 to $1,640 based on their household income, number of dependents, and other factors.

Faculty: TBD

Visiting Poet: TBD

Number of fellows participating: 40—ten per workshop group 

Main Activities:

  • Opening Circle
  • All-participant Orientation
  • Four 3-Hour Faculty-led Workshops
  • Two Fellows Readings
  • Two Faculty Readings/Book Signings
  • Visiting Poet’s Craft Talk/Book Signing
  • Fellow-led workshops (optional)
  • All-participant Stewardship Conversation
  • Closing Ceremony

Who’s eligible:

  • Adult black poets of African descent.
  • Applicants 21 years of age or older.


QUESTIONS? Email Programs & Communications Manager, Malcolm Tariq, at