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NC Poet Receives Witter Bynner Fellowship

Allison Hedge Coke

Allison Hedge Coke

North Carolina native Allison Hedge Coke has received the 2016 Witter Bynner Fellowship. The $10,000 grant “promotes poetry in American culture and encourages grant proposals that expand awareness of the positive effects of poetry on society.” Coke was selected by U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera; the fellowship is sponsored by the Witter Bynner Foundation for Poetry.

Coke’s authored books include the poetry collection Dog Road Woman, which won the American Book Award, and Off-Season City Pipe. She also is the author of a memoir, Rock Ghost, Willow, Deer, and Blood Run, a verse-play. Hedge Coke has edited eight additional collections. She is a founding faculty member of the Vermont College of Fine Arts’ full-residency MFA in Writing and Publishing Program, where she teaches poetry, creative nonfiction, and publishing.

Her honors include an American Book Award, an Independent Publisher Book Award, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas. She has won fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Lannan Foundation, and the MacDowell Colony for the Arts.

Her North Carolina ties run deep. She came of age cropping tobacco and working fields, waters, and working in factories. She attended Cary Elementary School and North Carolina State University, is a Weymouth Center for the Arts resident fellow, and will teach “Writing as Freedom and Docupoetics” at Cullowhee Mountain Arts this summer.

Juan Filipe Herrera

Juan Filipe Herrera

The Witter Bynner Fellowship supports the writing of poetry and requires the recipient to participate in reading and recording sessions at the Library of Congress. Coke will be awarded in a ceremony on Wednesday, March 9, at 4:00 pm, in the James Madison Building in Washington, DC.

Witter Bynner (1881-1968) was “a man of commanding stature, splendid good looks, and infectious energy, he presided over the cultural and convivial life in Santa Fe, New Mexico, for five decades.” His long career began during his undergraduate days at Harvard, where he was graduated summa cum laude in 1902. He was the Phi Beta Kappa poet in 1907 with Young Harvard, which became his first book. It was followed by a long list of works, extending until 1960, when Alfred Knopf, the publisher of all but a few of his copious bibliography, brought out his last, and in many ways, his most remarkable work titled New Poems, 1960.

Juan Felipe Herrera’s numerous poetry collections include 187 Reasons Mexicanos Can’t Cross the Border: Undocuments 1971-2007; Half of the World in Light: New and Selected Poems (2008); and Border-Crosser with a Lamborghini Dream (1999). In addition to publishing more than a dozen collections of poetry, Herrera has written short stories, young adult novels, and children’s literature. In 2015 he was named U.S. poet laureate.

For more information about the Witter Bynner Fellowship, click here.