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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 “where black poets, individually and collectively, can inspire and be inspired by others, relieved of any obligation to explain or defend their blackness (Harryette Mullen).”

2020 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 2020 Cave Canem Retreat scheduled for June 7-13 at the University of Pittsburgh at Greenburg. 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 2021, which will also commemorate Cave Canem’s 25th anniversary. In the meantime, we will continue to support the development of Black poets through our programs and digital platforms in the best ways possible. We are grateful for your continued support of Cave Canem.


Deadline to Apply: December 20, 2019 at 11:59 pm EST

Application Fee: $20

Dates: Arrive June 7, depart June 13.
Notification: Applicants will be notified of submission status by April 3, 2020.

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.

If accepted, please refer to this table and use the financial information form to calculate your fee. Please note that yellow-highlighted fields on the financial information form automatically compute dollar amounts based on the data you enter. 

Faculty: Major Jackson, Robin Coste Lewis, Evie Shockley and Frank X Walker

Visiting Poet: francine j. harris

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.

Apply online via Submittable

ELECTRONIC NOTIFICATION OF ADMISSION RESULTS BY April 3, 2020.

Accepted applicants: A non-refundable deposit of $90 will be due by April 14, 2020, in order to secure your place. The remainder of your fee will be due by May 12, 2020, no exceptions.

Returning FellowsDo not use the above application link to register. Eligible fellows will be contacted directly to register between November 2019 – January 2020. 

Registration for Returning Fellows will open in November. Deadline to register: January 8, 2020

Register online to secure your place. You may pay one of three deposit options, or your fee in full. Choose from one of the following:

  • Submittable Registration: $90 deposit via Submittable
  • Submittable Registration: $150 deposit via Submittable
  • Submittable Registration: $180 deposit and over via PayPal

Please refer to this table and use the financial information form to calculate your fee. Please note that yellow-highlighted fields on the financial information form automatically compute dollar amounts based on the data you enter.

Email as attachments your completed confidential Financial Information form and scanned documents, if applicable, to communications@ccpoets.org. Write “2020 Retreat Documents” in the subject line.

QUESTIONS? Email Programs & Communications Manager, Malcolm Tariq, at mtariq@ccpoets.org.

Retreat Form

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