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National Poetry Month: Pew Fellows on Identity, Politics, and Basketball

We count dozens of poets among our distinguished Pew Fellows. To celebrate National Poetry Month, read on to see where you can find their latest work.


Julia Bloch (2018), Laynie Browne (2014), and Pattie McCarthy (2011) are among the contributors to Midwinter Constellation, published last year by Black Lawrence Press. This “radical experiment in collective writing” was composed collaboratively by 32 women poets on the 40th anniversary of Bernadette Mayer’s writing of the epic poem Midwinter Day. The new book “declines to identify who’s speaking when, exceeding the territory of authorship and rejecting the illusion that we are separate,” according to the publisher.

Yolanda Wisher, 2015 Pew Fellow. Photo by Ryan Collerd.
Yolanda Wisher, 2015 Pew Fellow. Photo by Ryan Collerd.

Yolanda Wisher (2015) has a number of recent projects of note. In January, ConsenSIS—led by Wisher and Trapeta B. Mayson (2003)—published the results of a survey of 107 Black women and femme poets working in Philadelphia and the surrounding counties. Last May, Yolanda Wisher & The Afroeaters released their first album, Doublehanded Suite, featuring poetry and prose by Black writers from the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries (including Sonia Sanchez [1993]), set to music arranged and performed by the band. Wisher also curated a collection of poems for the Spring 2023 issue of Hanging Loose magazine and has four poems included in the Spring 2022 issue of The Iowa Review.

Earlier this month, Afaa Michael Weaver (1998) released A Fire in the Hills, a new book of poetry published by Red Hen Press. The book examines “the complexities of life lived as a Black man born in America in the mid-twentieth century…emanating from an attempt to follow Daoist philosophy for most of his life,” says the publisher. In a comment on the book, poet Terrance Hayes observes, “Afaa Weaver can write any kind of poem you can imagine…He’s been writing long enough to resist all classifications except that of Master Poet.”

“The life that smothers and gluts us makes it tough
to believe the lies we Americans tell ourselves
about who Americans are and what belongs to us”

—from “When I think of Vietnam,” by Afaa Michael Weaver

Denice Frohman, 2022 Pew Fellow. Photo by David Evan McDowell.
Denice Frohman, 2022 Pew Fellow. Photo by David Evan McDowell.

In October, published Denice Frohman’s (2022) “The Art of Shooting in the Dark” in its “Poem-a-Day” feature, part of a series of basketball sonnets by the poet. Frohman, a former college and professional basketball player, explains, “A few summers ago at a writing residency, I started to think of the sonnet as a basketball court—the last two lines of the Shakespearean sonnet as the final two steps of a layup. The game has taught me so much about the geography of my own body and how to find meaning even in the most fragmented, ambiguous spaces.”

“But back to the moon      the first rock      dollop of sugar 
& slinging hoop in the dark      which we learned was a game
      of approximation
Less math      more muscle memory      less Mozart      more
Like descarga      more riff      more wrist.”

—from “The Art of Shooting in the Dark,” by Denice Frohman


Jena Osman (2006) also had a poem featured in’s “Poem-a-Day” series in July. On the origin of “Dissent and the Hydra,” Osman says, “I started this poem just after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away. I picked it up again after Justice Samuel Alito’s draft opinion, which anticipated the majority opinion that overturned Roe v. Wade, was leaked to the press.”

Daisy Fried’s (1998) The Year the City Emptied, published last year by Flood Editions, adapts 28 Baudelaire poems “run through my 21st C. American woman's idiom and nervous system, about politics and pandemic in 2020, and the illness and death of my husband,” Fried says. Poet and translator Jennifer Moxley writes that the collection “growls with the cavernous hunger of our ‘graveyard Nation’ mid-pandemic. But the calm center of The Year the City Emptied is Fried’s dying husband. Just try and read his last lucid words, swansong of a lost world, without choking up.”

Sueyeun Juliette Lee (2013) released Aerial Concave Without Cloud last year, published by Nightboat Books. The poetry collection traverses “solar collapse” and “personal devastation and grief,” drawing from a combination of academic research and the Korean folk dance salp’uri to channel “the language of starlight through [Lee’s] body into poetic form,” as described by the publisher.

Pew Fellow Nathalie Anderson. Photo by JPG Photos.  
Pew Fellow Nathalie Anderson. Photo by JPG Photos.  

Nathalie Anderson (1993) published eight poems in last year’s Bibliotheca Dantesca: Journal of Dante Studies, first composed in 2021 for the Africana Dantes symposium at the Kelly Writers House of the University of Pennsylvania. Anderson says, “Considering Dante's visions of sinfulness 700 years after his death offered me the opportunity to consider what I as a non-believer see as cause for shame, particularly—within the frame of ‘Africana Dantes’—as a white person brought up in the Southern United States.” For Birds of North America, Anderson wrote collaborative poems with Lisa Sewell to accompany a series of 82 drawings of birds by Susan Hagen.

Susan Stewart (1995), with co-translator Patrizio Ceccagnoli, published a translation of the contemporary Italian poet Antonella Anedda's book of poems Historiae earlier this year through New York Review Books. Stewart interviewed Anedda for The Paris Review in 2020, a conversation in which Stewart says Anedda “spoke with both honesty and reticence; she avoids rhetoric in conversation just as she avoids it in her poems.”

Thomas Devaney (2014) published a new series of poems in this year’s January/February installment of The American Poetry Review (APR). About the works, Devaney says, “In the spring of 2022, a friend introduced me to Vaune Trachtman's captivating photo series NOW IS ALWAYS, which combines her own work with images taken by her father in Philadelphia in the 1930s. Several poems in APR are in conversation with Trachtman’s photographs, as they inspired me to reflect on my own relationships and memories. One of the poems, ‘The World Shows Up,’ pays tribute to my sister Colleen, who was born with severe intellectual disabilities and is nonverbal but remains highly communicative. Through my poem, I attempt to honor and express a profound aspect of our relationship that has eluded me for years.”

“When my sister and I sit
the day ducks out
and the backyard
becomes a meadow.

When my sister and I sit
every sound blankets our legs
and we’re the only two people
in the suburban headlands”

—from “The World Turns Up,” by Thomas Devaney