Red Hen Press Poet Wins Important American Academy of Poets Award

Published on Sep 21, 2023

Acclaimed poet Afaa Michael Weaver, known for his poetry collection ‘A Fire in the Hills’ published by Pasadena’s Red Hen Press, has been honored with the prestigious Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets.

The award is given annually to recognize outstanding artistic achievement in the art of poetry over  a poet’s career. Established in 1994, the award carries a $100,000 stipend. Recipients are chosen by the Academy’s Board of Chancellors. 

Chancellor Kwame Dawes said Weaver has “quietly and without fanfare put together a tremendous body of work” for over three decades. 

“He combines his rootedness in the African American poetic with a fierce commitment to the idea of belonging despite America’s long history of willfully deferring the dream of liberty, to, in effect, compel the nation to expand its understanding of itself and to embrace a more capacious sense of its constitution,” Dawes said. “In so doing, Weaver has achieved something that only a few poets, most notably Joseph Millard and Philip Levine, have in the last few decades, which is to engage the idea of a working-class sensibility, not as a limitation, but as an opportunity to create art of depth, sophistication, and spiritual power. Afaa Michael Weaver is a major and necessary American voice.”

In a statement, Red Hen Press said it was proud and honored to be “the home of one of Mr. Weaver’s incredible poetry collections.” 

“A Fire in the Hills” is a collection featuring the poet reckoning with his environment, particularly as a Black man in the United States. In it, Weaver focuses on one of the central threads in his body of work. The collection was published in April.

“His ongoing project of an articulation of self in relation to the external landscape of the community and the world and the writing of spirit through those revelations of sublimation of self gives way here to a material focus,” Red Hen Press said in a description of the collection. “The racial references are explicit as are the complexities of life lived as a Black man born in America in the mid-twentieth century. These are poems emanating from an attempt to follow Daoist philosophy for most of his life.” 

Founded in 1934 in New York City, the Academy of American Poets is the nation’s leading champion of American poets and poetry, with members in all 50 states. It supports American poets at all stages of their careers and fosters the appreciation of contemporary poetry. Guided by its publicly stated values of anti-racism, accessibility, collaboration, equity, and inclusion, the organization each year connects millions of readers to poets’ work with its many free programs and publications.

Afaa Michael Weaver was born Michael S. Weaver in Baltimore in 1951. A poet, playwright, and translator, is also the recipient of the May Sarton Award, a Pew Fellowship, a Fulbright scholarship, and the Gold Friendship Medal from the Beijing Writers’ Association. He was the first African American poet to serve as Poet-in-Residence at Bucknell University’s Stadler Center for Poetry & Literary Arts. 

Weaver also held an endowed chair at Simmons College for 20 years. He has been on the faculty at Cave Canem since its inception, becoming its first elder in 1998.

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