written by Colleen Curran
excerpt from Richmond Times-Dispatch
Two Virginia poets have been awarded $50,000 fellowships from the Academy of American Poets.
Roscoe Burnems, the first poet laureate of Richmond, and Luisa A. Igloria, poet laureate of Virginia, have been awarded the fellowship, along with 21 other poet laureates from across the nation.
Both poets will lead public poetry programs in their communities in the year ahead.
“It’s an honor. I’m really excited,” Burnems, born Douglass Powell, said. Burnems is the 34-year-old poet’s stage name.
Burnems will be using the funds to launch a project called “If These Walls Could Talk” where he will commission local youth and adult poets to write poems inspired by murals around Richmond. He’s partnering with the local nonprofit Mending Walls RVA and Richmond artist Hamilton Glass to film the poets reading their work. A QR code linking to that performance will be added to 10 murals around town for an interactive, self-guided mural tour.
“I’ve never done anything like this before,” Burnems said. “I’m really excited to get started.”
Burnems is a National Poetry Slam Champion, a former TEDx speaker, a teaching artist and founder of one of the oldest Black-owned open mics in the South. The Chesterfield County resident became Richmond’s first poet laureate in January, a two-year position that carries a $4,000 honorarium per year.