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The Academy of American Poets names its first Latino head

Ricardo Alberto Maldonado will become the Academy of American Poets' first Latino executive director and president since its founding in 1934.
Nancy Crampton
Academy of American Poets
Ricardo Alberto Maldonado will become the Academy of American Poets' first Latino executive director and president since its founding in 1934.

For the first time, the Academy of American Poets will be led by a Latino: Ricardo Alberto Maldonado. Maldonado, currently the co-director of the 92NY's Unterberg Poetry Center in New York City, will be the organization's next executive director and president

Founded in 1934 by a 23-year-old poet named Marie Bullock, the Academy of American Poets is the country's most prominent organization dedicated to all things verse-related in the United States. It supports emerging and established poets through grant programs, publishes American Poets Magazine and the website poets.org and provides educational resources to teachers, among other offerings.

Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Maldonado is steeped in the American poetry scene. At the 92NY's Unterberg Poetry Center, he has overseen readings, workshops and an annual poetry contest. He founded the Young Writers Workshop for students and helped spearhead the organization's DEI committee. He co-edited Puerto Rico en mi corazón, a bilingual collection of contemporary works by 40 Puerto Rican poets, created to help Hurricane Maria recovery efforts.

"We searched for a leader who was not merely seeking a job in poetry, but who was already fully invested in living out the vocation of poetry," said Board Chair Tess O'Dwyer in a statement. She praised Maldonado as a poet, translator and arts administrator.

In Maldonado's first poetry collection, The Life Assignment, he reflects on his history, relationships and sense of home. Publishers Weekly wrote, "In this quietly furious bilingual debut, Maldonado challenges the entanglements of power, queer love, money and language against the backdrop of a post-hurricane Puerto Rico and a life of daily labor in New York City."

Commenting on his new position, Maldonado said, "Like the many millions of poets, educators, and readers across the world who have used its resources since 1934, I believe, to quote the Salvadoran poet Roque Dalton, that 'poetry, like bread, is for everyone.'"

Maldonado replaces Jen Benka, who left last fall. He assumes the role on July 17.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Elizabeth Blair is a Peabody Award-winning senior producer/reporter on the Arts Desk of NPR News.

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