ASU poets laureate win fellowships from the Academy of American Poets

Laura Tohe and Rosemarie Dombrowski will lead civic programs to promote poetry in the Navajo Nation and Phoenix

May 29, 2020

Two Arizona State University professors are now among a prestigious class of poets that have been selected by the Academy of American Poets for fellowships made possible by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Navajo Nation Poet Laureate Laura Tohe, a professor emeritus with distinction in ASU’s Department of English and Rosemarie Dombrowski, inaugural poet laureate of Phoenix and instructor of women’s literature and medical humanities in ASU’s College of Integrative Sciences and Arts, are among the academy’s 2020 Poets Laureate Fellows. academy of american poets logo Download Full Image

Tohe and Dombrowski are among 23 individuals serving as poets laureate of states, cities, counties and the Navajo Nation who will be leading civic poetry programs in their respective communities in the coming year. Each fellow will receive $50,000 for a combined total of $1.1 million. The academy will also provide $66,500 to 12 local 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations that have agreed to support the fellows’ proposed projects.

Tohe’s project will further her work with students in the Navajo Nation through poetry-writing workshops and programs that focus on the Navajo language, which is listed as vulnerable by UNESCO.

“Writing poetry in Navajo supports revitalizing our language and recitation of our oral tradition,” Tohe said. “For this purpose, I will select a school with a Navajo language immersion program for the workshop.”

Laura Tohe

Laura Tohe. Photo by J Morgan Edwards

Tohe had planned to work in person with students on the Navajo Nation homeland but due to the coronavirus outbreak that has hit members of the Navajo Nation particularly hard, she will conduct her workshops through the online video conference platform Zoom with the support of school administration.

For her project, Dombrowski will present the interactive Phoenix Poetry Walk that will take place across multiple venues on Phoenix’s historic Grand Avenue. It will feature 50 unique readings by poetry-focused organizations across a six-hour period. Dombrowski hopes the walk will inject poetry into the community not only by exposing Phoenix residents to all forms of spoken word, but by engaging them in the poetic process via interactive elements like a magnetic poetry wall, poets writing poetry on demand for the public, the live installation of a poetic mural, and an after-hours open-mic.

Rosemarie Dombrowski

Rosemarie Dombrowski Photo credit: Enrique Garcia

Read the full list of 2020 Poets Laureate Fellows.

The Academy of American Poets, through its Poets Laureate Fellowship program, has become the largest financial supporter of poets in the nation. The Mellon Foundation awarded the academy $4.5 million in January of this year to fund the fellowship program through 2022. This year, in response to the global health crisis, the academy launched the #ShelterInPoems initiative, inviting members of the public to select poems of comfort and courage from its online collection to share with others on social media. The academy is also one of seven national organizations that comprise Artist Relief, a multidisciplinary coalition of arts grantmakers and a consortium of foundations collaborating to provide funding to individual poets, writers and artists who are impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Suzanne Wilson

Sr. Media Relations Officer, Media Relations & Strategic Communications


UPDATED: Next Arizona Horizon Town Hall explores race, unrest and healing

May 29, 2020

UPDATE: June 5 town hall to focus on race and unrest

“Arizona Horizon,” the daily public affairs program produced by Arizona PBS, is airing weekly town hall meetings each Friday at 7:30 p.m. to give the public more information about the things that impact life during the COVID-19 pandemic. Every week, they put viewers' questions before lawmakers, other public officials and experts in a variety of fields. Vanessa Ruiz, Arizona PBS anchor/host and Cronkite School director of diversity Cronkite School director of diversity Vanessa Ruiz will moderate the discussion. Download Full Image

Although the June 5 town hall was previously scheduled to focus on the performing arts, this conversation has been rescheduled for June 19.

In light of events in Phoenix and across the country, Vanessa Ruiz, director of diversity for the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at ASU, will moderate a discussion with community leaders about the current unrest and how we can come together to find common ground and heal. Guests will be Debora Colbert, interim executive director of the Black Mothers Forum; Roy Tatem Jr., president of East Valley NAACP; and Lola N’sangou, executive director of Mass Liberation Arizona.

On June 19, Jaime Dempsey, executive director of the Arizona Commission on the Arts, and Mark Mettes, president and CEO of the Herberger Theater Center, will join moderator Ted Simons to answer questions from viewers on the future of performing arts in Arizona.

Find more information and watch previous town halls here. Topics have included K-12 education, higher education, public health and business and unemployment resources.

Katie Jones

Associate Editor, Cronkite School/Arizona PBS