On Wednesday, poet Allison Hedge Coke was honored as the 2016 Witter Bynner Fellow. She was selected and introduced by Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry at the Library of Congress, Juan Felipe Herrera.
In his selection, Herrera said he sought to honor Hedge Coke “for her precision of Earth, of suffering in and out of the Rez, of the workers unnamed, open roads knitted with tin shacks, Case ’45 tractors, ancestor dust and the spirit tuned to caribou, America and song. For her translation projects of First Peoples across the entire hemisphere. For her unceasing teaching, humility, courage, and pioneering—for these offerings to the small miracles of all our voices and the galaxies they aim to call out and admire.”
In a statement, Hedge Coke said, “I am utterly grateful, thrilled, and deeply moved to be selected for the 2016 Witter Bynner Fellowship, stunned really, as it is by far the most humbling public moment of my life. Moreover, to be selected by such an immeasurably active Poet Laureate is just an immense honor.”
The Witter Bynner Foundation for Poetry was incorporated in 1972 in New Mexico to provide grant support for programs through non-profit organizations. Witter Bynner was an influential early-20th century poet and translator of the Chinese Classic “Tao Te Ching,” which he named “The Way of Life According to Laotzu.” He travelled with D.H. Lawrence and Frieda Lawrence and proposed to Edna St. Vincent Millay (she accepted, but then they changed their minds). He worked at McClure’s Magazine, where he published A.E. Housman for the first time in the United States, and was one of O. Henry’s early fans.
This is the 19th year that the fellowship has been awarded. You can view a list of all Witter Bynner Fellows here.