Minnesota State Mankato Professor Gwen Westerman Receives $50,000 Award for Public Poetry Programs in the Upcoming Year

Westerman among 22 national poet laureate fellows honored

August 02, 2022 | Featured

AP coverage

Mankato, Minnesota -- Minnesota State University, Mankato Professor Gwen Westerman is among 22 national recipients of $50,000 awards from the Academy of American Poets.

A press release from the Academy of American Poets said the 22 recipients, "each of whom will receive $50,000, have been named poets laureate of states, cities, and counties, and have made positive contributions to their communities in these roles and beyond. Funds will support their respective public poetry programs in the year ahead as presented in their proposals to the Academy. In addition, the Academy will provide a total of $72,200 to eight local 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations that have agreed to support the Fellows’ proposed projects."

The Academy of American Poets press release included the following on Westerman:

Gwen Nell Westerman, Poet Laureate Fellow, Minnesota

Gwen Westerman is the author of "Follow the Blackbirds" (Michigan State University Press, 2013), a poetry collection written in Dakota and English. The first indigenous poet laureate of Minnesota, Westerman teaches American and Native Nations literature, technical communication, and humanities at Minnesota State University, Mankato. In collaboration with the Minnesota Center for the Book, Westerman will engage underserved Minnesota youth in grades five through eight with art and nature through three summer workshops at regional state parks, where students will write poetry about their relationships to the land. Westerman will work with poet Michael Torres, as well as graduate students in the creative writing program at Minnesota State University, to bring these young people to inspiring landscapes. She will encourage the students to write poems in English and their home languages on the beauty of the state parks. In addition to the three workshops, there will be a state-wide call for students to write a poem about their favorite state park that will be part of a digital anthology that includes the poems from the summer workshops. The anthology will be published through a free, online resource: MN Writes MN Reads. Poetry in the Parks will be promoted widely through both statewide and local networks.

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