National Endowment for the Arts: Poetry Spotlight

We’ve been looking at physical locations recently for the poetry spotlight, including Berl’s Brooklyn Poetry Shop and the Hugo House. But this week, let’s spotlight an organization: the National Endowment for the Arts.

As always, I appreciate the poetry spotlight ideas people send my way. Keep them coming at with the subject line: Poetry Spotlight Idea.


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national-endowment-for-the-artsEven if you’re not completely familiar with the National Endowment for the Arts, chances are pretty good that you’ve at least heard of the group. So who (or what) are they?

Their site says, “The National Endowment for the Arts is an independent federal agency that funds, promotes, and strengthens the creative capacity of our communities by providing all Americans with diverse opportunities for arts participation.” So what does that mean?

I queried people on social media for stories of how the NEA benefited them directly. Here are a few of those:

Leslie Harrison: “I was about 6 weeks from unemployment when I got the call. I had taken a huge risk–quit my job and accepted the Roth Residency at the Stadler Center for Poetry. The residency was ending, and I didn’t have a job. And then I got a magical call. The NEA combined with adjunct teaching kept me in my house, paying my mortgage, and buying groceries for a long time.”

Mj Pettengill: “My son is a gifted violinist. When he was attending music school as a child, I was a single mother of three, and I could not afford tuition for the music school, training, and certain summer festivals or clinics. He received scholarships and funding from the NEA, which resulted in him going to music conservatory and having a successful career as a classical violinist today.”

Only More So, by Millicent Borges Accardi

Only More So, by Millicent Borges Accardi

Millicent Accardi: “As a last ditch effort to pay the bills, I was working for an oil company, as a technical writer and decided to apply for an NEA; it was in the olden days when you had to make copies of everything and mail it in. I arrived like one minute before the post office closed in San Francisco, on the deadline, feeling I had a snow ball’s chance in hell. Then, the call from Cliff Becker came, and I started crying and the programmers I was working with thought someone had died. The NEA saved my life: It allowed me a year off where I could work on a manuscript which became my book Only More So (Salmon) and opened my world to the possibilities.”

So it has been a boon to many a writer (of all genres) and other artists, including the performing arts. But the National Endowment for the Arts also funds other organizations. In fact, there are too many to list, so if you’re curious, click here to view the 279-page announcement for fall 2016.

Writers can apply for individual Creative Writing Fellowships (for free) each year, though the genre changes each year. If awarded, grants are for $25,000.

Learn more here.


Robert Lee Brewer is the editor of Poet’s Market and author of Solving the World’s Problems. Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.


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