David St. John named Academy of American Poets chancellor

David St. John joins the ranks of some of the most distinguished poets in the United States. (Photo/Peter Zhaoyu Zhou)


David St. John named Academy of American Poets chancellor

The accomplished USC author will consult with the organization and act as an ambassador of poetry in the world at large

January 12, 2017 USC Dornsife staff

David St. John, University Professor of English and Comparative Literature, has been named a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. Elected by the standing chancellors, his term in this distinguished position lasts six years.

“To be elected to this position by the other chancellors is what is, to me, deeply moving and personally affirming,” St. John said. “One certainly doesn’t become a poet for either the money or the fame, but because of an elemental belief that art and language are essential to the well-being of our culture and to our individual interior lives as well.”

St. John, chair of the Department of English at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, will consult with the organization on matters of artistic programming, serve as a judge for the organization’s largest prizes for poets and act as an ambassador of poetry in the world at large.

“The Academy of American Poets is the flagship literary organization that attempts to keep the bedrock humane values of poetry alive and active — in a daily way — in all of our lives,” he said. “It’s an honor to be asked to join the chancellors as they continue to guide the academy in directions that, I believe, will help to champion and preserve the many diverse and accomplished voices that make up the extraordinary poetry of our present day.”

Poet Jane Hirshfield was among those recommending St. John to the position.

“David St. John, treasured for decades as one of this country’s foremost poets, has continually moved both the bar of the art and readers’ hearts and minds,” she said. “As a teacher and mentor, anthology and journal and book editor, supporter and friend, he has been indispensable to the community of those who love words and what they can do.

“His intellect is powerful, his heart large, his generosity unbounded. David’s election to the Academy of American Poets Board of Chancellors will bring to that group a true citizen of letters in the broadest sense, at a moment such a person is needed more than ever, by us all.”

Distinguished colleagues

In attaining this distinction, St. John joins the ranks of some of the most distinguished poets in the United States, including W. H. Auden, John Ashbery, Elizabeth Bishop, Lucille Clifton, Yusef Komunyakaa, Adrienne Rich and Mark Strand.

Born in Fresno, St. John received his B.A. from California State University, Fresno and an MFA from the University of Iowa.

His many books of poetry include The Last Troubadour: New and Selected Poems (Ecco, forthcoming in April 2017), The Window (Arctos Press, 2014),The Auroras (HarperCollins, 2012), The Face: A Novella in Verse (HarperPerennial, 2005), Prism (Arctos Press, 2002), The Red Leaves of Night (HarperCollins, 1999) and Study for the World’s Body: New and Selected Poems (1994), which was nominated for the National Book Award.

He is also the author of the volume of essays and interviews Where the Angels Come Toward Us (White Pine Press, 1995), and he co-edited American Hybrid: A Norton Anthology of New Poetry (W. W. Norton, 2009) with Cole Swenson.

St. John’s awards include the Discovery/The Nation Prize, the James D. Phelan Prize and the Rome Prize fellowship in literature. He has also received three National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships and a Guggenheim Fellowship, and he was elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2016.

The Academy of American Poets is the nation’s largest membership-based nonprofit organization championing poets and poetry. The organization produces Poets.org, the world’s largest publicly funded website for poets and poetry; National Poetry Month; the popular Poem-a-Day series; American Poets magazine; resources for K-12 educators; and an annual series of poetry readings and special events.