Alabama poet laureate Ashley Jones has been awarded $50,000 to support her public poetry projects.
The Academy of American Poets has announced that it is awarding a combined total of $1.1 million to its 2022 cohort of Poet Laureate Fellows. The fellowship, which launched in 2019 in partnership with the Mellon Foundation, awards $50,000 to 22 poet laureates around the nation who have “made positive contributions to their communities in these roles and beyond,” according to a press release from the Academy.
The financial awards will support the fellows’ civic poetry programs in the upcoming year. The Academy of American Poets will also provide a total of $72,200 to eight local non-profit organizations that have agreed to support the fellows’ proposed projects.
Jones will use the funds to help implement a project called the Alabama Poetry Delegation, a multi-regional leadership and service initiative which “seeks to engage and support poetry projects and poets across the state,” according to a description in the release.
“My laureate project seeks to make space for every corner of Alabama to experience poetry, and I’m grateful to be able to start work on that initiative very soon (with some help from the Alabama Writers’ Forum, Inc. ),” Jones said in the post. “Alabama is a valuable destination for good poetry and good people (who will always fight the good fight against those who seek to silence), not a place where good things come to end.”
Jones was named poet laureate of Alabama last August and was officially confirmed in December. Jones, whose tenure runs from 2022 to 2026, is the first Black and youngest poet laureate in Alabama history.
“I’m definitely looking forward to just elevating poets across the state to empower their own region and make things happen for their region specifically. Not just those big cities like Birmingham, Montgomery, and Huntsville. I’m hoping to reach all the places.”
Since her selection as poet laureate, Jones– who already had a packed schedule of writing and lecturing, as well as instructing at the Alabama School of Fine Arts–has been on a steady circuit of poetry readings, and media appearances. In addition to appearances throughout the state, Jones has been profiled on Good Morning America, the New York Times, Madame Noire, and The Bitter Southerner.
In “Reparations Now!” Jones calls for reparations for Black descendants of enslaved people in the United States though both an exploration of historic trauma and a celebration of Black life. This month, Jones will be the keynote speaker at the 2022 Alabama Writers’ Cooperative Conference where she will present a talk entitled “Poetry as a Path to Reparations: The Role of Art in the Justice Struggle.”