Vermont Poet Laureate Mary Ruefle Named American Academy of Poets Laureate Fellow

MONTPELIER, VT—The American Academy of Poets announced today that Mary Ruefle, Poet Laureate of Vermont, has been selected as a national 2020 Poets Laureate Fellow by the Academy.

Ruefle is one of 23 state or local Poets Laureate nationwide to be honored.

Poets Laureate Fellows receive a $50,000 award in recognition of their literary merit and to support their civic poetry programs.

For Ruefle’s project, in collaboration with the Vermont Arts Council, Ruefle will personally mail out handwritten poems written by other poets to 1,000 residents of Vermont, randomly chosen from the phonebook.

“I was thrilled to receive the grant, both for myself and the state. And the timing couldn’t have been better – I support myself by traveling around the country and giving readings and talks and my entire 2020 itinerary was canceled,” Ruefle said.

“I actually began mailing out poems locally before I got the grant, but receiving the grant will enable me to reach my goal of 1,000 poems,” she continued. “I know most will end up in the trash, but I hope 10% of them will reach people whose day will be made a little brighter, richer, deeper.”

For Mary Ruefle’s full statement upon receiving the award, visit

A writer of worldwide recognition, Ruefle is the author of many books of poetry, including Dunce (Wave Books, 2019), finalist for the 2020 Pulitzer Prize and longlisted for the 2019 National Book Award in Poetry. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and a Whiting Award. Ruefle was named the Poet Laureate of Vermont in October 2016. She lives in Bennington and teaches in the MFA program at Vermont College.

Through its Poets Laureate Fellowship program, the Academy has become the largest financial supporter of poets in the nation. The fellowship program is made possible by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which, in January of this year, awarded the Academy $4.5 million. The award will fund the program in 2020, 2021, and 2022.

"This wonderful project is entirely in keeping with Mary Ruefle's deep commitment to serve Vermonters as their Poet Laureate while remaining unplugged from digital communication," noted VAC Executive Director Karen Mittelman. "Selecting exceptional poems that are meaningful to her, and mailing them in hard copy to 1,000 Vermonters -- chosen at random from printed phone books -- is an offbeat and imaginative way to invite people across our state to experience the gift of poetry, even more meaningful now, in a time of social isolation."

The other 2020 Poets Laureate Fellows and the communities they serve are Honey Bell-Bey (Cuyahoga County, OH), Tina Cane (Rhode Island), Tina Chang (Brooklyn, NY), Nnamdi Chukwuocha and Al Mills aka Twin Poets (Delaware), Rosemarie Dombrowski (Phoenix, AZ), Beth Ann Fennelly (Mississippi), Angelo Geter (Rock Hill, SC), Margaret Gibson (Connecticut), Rodney Gomez (McAllen, TX), Elizabeth Jacobson (Santa Fe, NM), Stuart Kestenbaum (Maine), Susan Landgraf (Auburn, WA), Maria Lisella (Queens, NY), Porsha Olayiwola (Boston, MA), Alexandria Peary (New Hampshire), Emmy Pérez (Texas), Janice Lobo Sapigao (Santa Clara County, CA), John Warner Smith (Louisiana), Laura Tohe (Navajo Nation), Amie Whittemore (Murfreesboro, TN), and Assétou Xango (Aurora, CO).
About the Vermont Poet Laureate

The poet laureate serves as Vermont’s ambassador for the art of poetry and is called upon to participate in official ceremonies and readings within Vermont and nationally. This is a four year honorary position, appointed by the governor based on the recommendation of a distinguished panel of judges. Vermont’s first Poet Laureate, Robert Frost, was appointed in 1961. In 1988, Governor Madeline Kunin re-established the position. Since 1988, Sydney Lea, Ruth Stone, Grace Paley, Ellen Bryant Voigt, Louise Glück, Galway Kinnell and Chard deNiord have held the post.

About the Vermont Arts Council

The Vermont Arts Council envisions a Vermont where all people have access to the arts and creativity in their lives, education, and communities. Engagement with the arts transforms individuals, connects us more deeply to each other, energizes the economy, and sustains the vibrant cultural landscape that makes Vermont a great place to live. Since 1965, the Council has been the state's primary provider of funding, advocacy, and information for the arts in Vermont. Learn more at

Catherine Crawley, Communications Director,