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John Warner Smith

Poet laureate, who has Morgan City ties, receives fellowship

The Academy of American Poets has awarded Louisiana Poet Laureate John Warner Smith a prestigious Laureate Fellowship, given to honor poets of literary merit serving in civic positions around the country.
Smith, who was born in Morgan City and still has family here, was named poet laureate in 2019 by Gov. John Bel Edwards. He received $50,000 as part of the award to produce meaningful, and innovative projects in Louisiana. In partnership with the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities and local schools, Smith will conduct youth poetry workshops in four under-resourced parishes in northeast Louisiana’s Delta parishes.
Smith joins 23 other poets around the country who received a Laureate Fellowship. He earned his Master of Fine Arts at the University of New Orleans and is the author of four published collections of poetry. A Cave Canem fellow, Smith has directed Education’s Next Horizon and teaches English at Southern University in Baton Rouge.
“John Warner Smith’s writing captures the human experience through meaningful, passionate poetry that moves your emotions. John is not only a talented and gifted poet, he is a trailblazer who devotes himself to education and the greater good of the community,” Edwards saidn.
Smith’s poems have appeared in numerous literary journals across the country, including Ploughshares, Callaloo, North American Review and Missouri Review, and he is the winner of the 2019 Linda Hodge Bromberg Poetry Award. Much of his poetry draws upon African American history and his personal experiences of growing up and living in the South.
“Here at the LEH we are proud to not only manage the Poet Laureate selection process, but also to support meaningful interaction with poetry around the state,” said LEH President/Executive Director Miranda Restovic. “John has worked hard to make himself available across Louisiana in person and during the COVID-19 crisis online, and this recognition from the academy confirms what we already knew — he is a poet of extraordinary talent and commitment.”
The Academy of American Poets has awarded 23 individuals with Laureate Fellowships to lead civic poetry programs in their respective communities in the year ahead. They will each receive $50,000 for a combined total of $1.1 million. The Academy also awarded the LEH a $9,000 matching gift in support of Louisiana Poet Laureate programming.
The fellowship program is made possible by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. For more information about the fellowship, including the full list of recipients, visit


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