Contact person: Sarah Nicolas

STARKVILLE—Mississippi Poet Laureate Catherine Pierce adds another honor to her list of distinguished honors this month with her selection as a Poet Laureate Fellow by the Academy of American Poets, one of 22 recipients this year.

Also a Mississippi State English teacher, Pierce will use scholarship support to launch a statewide poetry writing initiative for young people, culminating in a Mississippi Young Writers Poetry Festival held at university in April 2023.

The academy awards $1.1 million to the poet laureates, who each receive $50,000 to support their respective public poetry projects. Additionally, the academy is providing a total of $72,200 to eight local 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations that have agreed to support projects proposed by fellows.

Working with the Mississippi Center for the Book, Pierce will distribute a poem prompt to all K-12 schools in the state, along with resources to help teachers integrate the prompt into classrooms. Schools will select poems from each class and submit them to a panel of Mississippi poets selecting winners from across the state.

All grade-level winners will be invited to the Mississippi Young Writers Poetry Festival, which will include a reading by each student, writing workshops, a keynote address by a poet, and an anthology given to each participant featuring the work of student writers.

“The belief that poetry is for everyone is at the heart of my work in this role, and one of my main goals is to find ways to help young people in Mississippi access poetry in a way that is meaningful to them,” Pierce said.

“The statewide poetry-writing initiative and the Mississippi Young Writers Poetry Festival will bring poetry and its pleasures to the everyday lives of Mississippi students in a tangible way,” she added. “The Laureate Fellowship is a huge honor, and I’m so excited about the work that it will keep me going.”

Pierce received the 2021 Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Poetry Award for his book “Danger Days,” a 2020 Saturnalia Books publication. She won a 2020 Mississippi Arts Commission Literary Artist Fellowship for her poetry, a 2020 Pushcart Prize for her poem “Entreaty,” and a 2018 Pushcart Prize for her poem “I Kept Getting Books about Birds.”

Pierce received a 2019 Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Her 2019 poem “How Becoming a Mother Is Like Space Travel” was published in The Nation magazine, considered the oldest continuously printed weekly magazine in the United States.

Pierce is the author of three additional poetry collections. They include “The Tornado Is the World” (Saturnalia, 2016), winner of the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Poetry Award 2017 and a National Sustainable Arts Foundation Award 2015; “The Girls of Peculiar” (Saturnalia, 2012), also winner of the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Poetry Award 2013; and “Famous Last Words” (Saturnalia, 2008), winner of the Saturnalia Books Poetry Prize.

Her poems have also appeared in The Best American Poetry, American Poetry Review, Slate, Boston Review, and The Cincinnati Review, among others.

A native of Delaware, Pierce earned a Bachelor of Arts from Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania, an MFA from Ohio State University, and a Ph.D. from the University of Missouri.

To learn more about her work, visit

Through its Poets Laureate Scholarship program, the Academy of American Poets has become the nation’s largest financial supporter of poets, awarding a total of $4.35 million in scholarships to 81 Poets Laureate since 2019, plus more than 250 $000 to local 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations that have supported the poets’ projects. In addition to helping poets reach tens of thousands of people in 73 different communities with creative and timely poetry programs, the academy has helped encourage more than 30 communities across the United States to create new positions. Poet Laureate since launching her program in 2019. For more, visit

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