Cave Canem

Cave Canem was conceived when poets Toi Derricote and Cornelius Eady were vacationing together in Pompeii, Italy in 1996. At the entryway of The House of the Tragic Poet, was the famous mosaic Cave Canem, which means “Beware of the Dog,” and signified to them that African-American poets need to have a safe space to practice their craft if they are to thrive.
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Cave Canem

Cornelius Eady and Toi Derricote (Photo credit: Rachel Eliza Griffiths)Cave Canem was conceived when poets Toi Derricote and Cornelius Eady were vacationing together in Pompeii, Italy in 1996. At the entryway of The House of the Tragic Poet, was the famous mosaic Cave Canem, which means “Beware of the Dog,” and signified to them that African-American poets need to have a safe space to practice their craft if they are to thrive.

Cave Canem’s flagship program is an annual writing retreat held at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg, PA that welcomes emerging African-American poets from across the United States and around the world. Poets become “fellows,” and are invited to attend two additional retreats within a five-year period. Among the major literary awards received by fellows are the National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award, the NAACP Image Award, the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets, and the Ruth Lilly and Lannan Fellowships.

Delivered in partnership with five prestigious presses, Cave Canem administers three books awards of its own: The Cave Canem Poetry Prize, the Cave Canem Northwestern University Press Poetry Prize, and the Toi Derricotte & Cornelius Eady Chapbook Prize.

In addition to the flagship writing retreat and the book awards, there are community-based workshops for emerging adult poets, conversations with legendary poets and scholars, new works readings showcasing poetry by contemporary African-American practitioners, cross-cultural craft conversations with poets of color in mid-career, a popular lecture series, and a poets tour representing over 70 fellows.

Cave Canem has over 20 local, regional, and national cultural partnerships and collaborative residencies for fellows at such sites as the Millay Colony for the Arts, the Vermont Studio Center, and Community of Writers at Squaw Valley.

The success of Cave Canem has inspired the creation of Kundiman, a national organization dedicated to the creation and cultivation of Asian-American poetry; CantoMundo, which provides a space for the creation and critical analysis of Latina/o poetry; and Kimbilio, a community of writers and scholars committed to developing, empowering, and sustaining fiction writers from the African diaspora.

 

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