Louisiana Poet Laureate John Warner Smith awarded national fellowship


Louisiana Poet Laureate  John Warner Smith. Photo by Romero Photography

Louisiana Poet Laureate and Southern University professor John Warner Smith has been awarded the prestigious Academy of American Poets’ Laureate Fellowship, given to honor poets of literary merit serving in civic positions around the country.

Smith joins 23 other poets around the country who received a Laureate Fellowship. He received $50,000 as part of the award to produce meaningful, impactful, and innovative poetry projects in Louisiana.

“As we face the crisis of the Covid-19 pandemic, more and more people are turning to poetry for comfort and courage. We are honored and humbled in this moment of great need to fund poets who are talented artists and community organizers, who will most certainly help guide their communities forward,” said Jennifer Benka, president and executive director of the Academy of American Poets.

In partnership with the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities and local schools,  Smith will conduct youth poetry workshops in four under-resourced parishes in northeast Louisiana’s Delta parishes.

Last year, he was named to the Poet Laureate position by Governor John Bel Edwards, becoming the first Black man to hold the title. He also won the 2019 Linda Hodge Bromberg Poetry Award.


He is the author of four published collections of poetry: Muhammad’s Mountain (Lavender Ink, 2018), Spirits of the Gods (ULL Press, 2017), Soul Be A Witness(MadHat Press, 2016) and A Mandala of Hands (Kelsay Books – Aldrich Press, 2015). His fifth collection, Our Shut Eyes: New & Selected Poems on Race in America, is forthcoming.

He is a Cave Canem fellow and his poems have appeared in numerous literary journals across the country, including Ploughshares, Callaloo, North American Review and Missouri Review. Much of his poetry draws upon Black history and his personal experiences of growing up and living in the South.

A native of Morgan City, Smith began writing poetry while simultaneously building a successful career as a public administrator and a banker. He earned a master of fine arts at the University of New Orleans, a master of business administration from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and bachelor of science degrees in psychology and accounting from McNeese State University.

He teaches English at Southern University in Baton Rouge and directs Education’s Next Horizon, a statewide non-profit organization dedicated to reforming public education in Louisiana.

The Academy of American Poets also awarded the LEH a $9,000 matching gift in support of Louisiana Poet Laureate programming. The fellowship program is made possible by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Smith will be Louisiana’s literary ambassador through 2021.

ONLINE: JohnWarnerSmith.com
Academy of American Poets

#JozefBookandBrew @jozefsyndicate

One Response to “Louisiana Poet Laureate John Warner Smith awarded national fellowship”
  1. What a fabulous achievement! Congratulations!

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