MACON – Mercer University faculty member and Georgia Poet Laureate Chelsea Rathburn was recently selected by the Academy of American Poets as a 2021 Poets Laureate Fellow.

This year’s 23 fellows serve as poets laureate of states and cities across the U.S. and will be leading civic poetry programs in their respective communities in the year ahead. Each will receive $50,000, and the Academy will provide more than $100,000 to 14 local 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations that have agreed to support the fellows’ proposed projects.

Rathburn is collaborating with the Georgia Center for the Book and the DeKalb Library Foundation to develop an interactive poetry program called Poetry in the Parks, which will feature poetry trails showcasing short poems by Georgian poets. Each stop on the poetry trails will include a creative prompt for those interested in writing poems of their own, and the trails will be supplemented by free workshops for teens and adults. The Poetry in the Parks trails and supplemental activities will increase awareness of poetry and library services while engaging Georgians in safe and healthy outdoor activities.

“The Poets Laureate Fellowships are unique in that they simultaneously support a laureate’s creative work and that poet’s larger community,” Rathburn said. “It’s a tremendous honor, and I can’t wait to get started on the Poetry in the Parks program. I’m also looking forward to finding opportunities to involve Mercer students who are interested in serving our community and the arts.”

Rathburn joined Mercer’s faculty in August 2019 as assistant professor of English and creative writing.

Her latest full-length poetry collection, Still Life with Mother and Knife, released by LSU Press in 2019, won the 2020 Eric Hoffer Book Award for Poetry and was a finalist for the Montaigne Medal. Still Life with Mother and Knife follows A Raft of Grief, which received the 2012 Autumn House Prize, and The Shifting Line, which won the 2005 Richard Wilbur Award.

Rathburn’s poems have appeared in the nation’s most highly regarded journals, including Poetry, The Atlantic Monthly, the New Republic, The Southern Review, New England Review and Ploughshares, among others.

She has received a National Endowment for the Arts poetry fellowship, the Squaw Valley Community of Writers Scholarship, the Father William Ralston Fellowship from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and the Walton Fellowship in Poetry from the University of Arkansas, among numerous awards and honors. Additionally, she was named one of the 100 Most Influential Georgians for 2020 and 2021 by Georgia Trend.

Rathburn earned her bachelor’s degree from Florida State University and Master of Fine Arts from the University of Arkansas.

Prior to coming to Mercer, she was on the faculty at Young Harris College and previously served as McEver Visiting Chair in Writing at Georgia Institute of Technology.

Through its Poets Laureate Fellowship program, the Academy of American Poets has become the largest financial supporter of poets in the nation. The fellowship program is made possible by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which awarded the Academy $4.5 million to fund the program.

“As we begin emerging from COVID-19 restrictions, poetry, which has provided such comfort these past 15 months, will continue to be a source of insight,” said Jennifer Benka, president and executive director of the Academy of American Poets. “We are honored and humbled to fund poets who are devoted to their own craft and also their community. Poets will most certainly help guide us forward.”

About the Academy of American Poets

Founded in 1934, the Academy of American Poets is the nation’s leading champion of poets and poetry with supporters in all fifty states. The organization annually awards more funds to individual poets than any other organization through its prize program, giving a total of $1.25 million to more than 200 poets at various stages of their careers. The organization also produces Poets.org, the world’s largest publicly funded website for poets and poetry; organizes National Poetry Month; publishes the popular Poem-a-Day series and American Poets magazine; provides award-winning resources to K-12 educators, including the Teach This Poem series; hosts an annual series of poetry readings and special events; and coordinates a national Poetry Coalition working together to promote the value poets bring to our culture.

About the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Mercer University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences serves as the academic cornerstone of one of America’s oldest and most distinctive institutions of higher learning. The oldest and largest of Mercer’s 12 schools and colleges, it is a diverse and vibrant community, enrolling more than 1,900 students, dedicated to learning and service through the practice of intellectual curiosity, respectful dialogue and responsible citizenry. The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences offers majors in more than 30 areas of study, including more than a dozen pre-professional academic tracks, with classes taught by an outstanding faculty of scholars. In 2015, Mercer was awarded a chapter of The Phi Beta Kappa Society, the nation’s most prestigious academic honor society that recognizes exceptional achievement in the arts and sciences. For more information, visit liberalarts.mercer.edu.

Kyle is the director of media relations at Mercer. In addition to being the primary media contact for most academic and administrative units of the university, he coordinates hometown and university news releases and serves as editor of the News@Mercer e-newsletter and Reach magazine.​