2016 Spotlight Readers
X.J. Kennedy (known to his friends as Joe) was born in Dover, N. J., on August 21, 1929, shortly before the crash of the stock market. Irked by the hardship of having the name of Joseph Kennedy, he stuck the X on and has been stuck with it ever since. He has taught English at Michigan, at the Woman's College of the U. of North Carolina (now UNC Greensboro), and from 1963 through 1978 at Tufts, with visiting sojourns at Wellesley, U. of California Irvine, and the U. of Leeds. In 1978, he became a free-lance writer. Recognitions include Guggenheim and National Arts Council fellowships, and in 2004 the Poets' Prize (for The Lords of Misrule: Poems 1992-2002). In 2008 his new and selected poems, In a Prominent Bar in Secaucus, was a Notable Book of the American Library Association. In spring 2009 the Poetry Society of America gave him the Robert Frost Medal for lifetime service to poetry.
Gregory Pardlo's collection Digest won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry. Digest was also shortlisted for the 2015 NAACP Image Award and is a current finalist for the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award. His other honors include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York Foundation for the Arts; his first collection Totem received the APR/Honickman Prize in 2007. Pardlo's poems appear in The Nation, Ploughshares, Tin House, The Norton Anthology of Contemporary African American Poetry, Best American Poetry, and elsewhere. Pardlo lives with his family in Brooklyn.
Mahogany Browne, Cave Canem, Poets House & Serenbe Focus fellow, is the author of several books including Redbone (nominated for NAACP Outstanding Literary Works), Dear Twitter: Love Letters Hashed Out On-line, recommended by Small Press Distribution & About.com Best Poetry Books of 2010. Mahogany bridges the gap between lyrical poets and literary emcee. Browne has toured Germany, Amsterdam, England, Canada and recently Australia as 1/3 of the cultural arts exchange project Global Poetics. Her journalism work has been published in magazines Uptown, KING, XXL, The Source, Canada's The Word and UK's MOBO. Her poetry has been published in literary journals Pluck, Manhattanville Review, Muzzle, Union Station Mag, Literary Bohemian, Bestiary, Joint & The Feminist Wire. She is the author of several poetry collections including: Smudge (Button Poetry) & is a part of the groundbreaking anthology The Break Beat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop (Haymarket), as well as the editorial team for forthcoming Black Girl Magic. She is an Urban Word NYC Poet-in-Residence (as seen on HBO's Brave New Voices), founder of Women Writers of Color Reading Room (housed on Pratt Institute) and facilitates performance poetry and writing workshops throughout the country. Browne is also the publisher of Penmanship Books, the Nuyorican Poets Café Poetry Program Director and Friday Night Slam curator and recent graduate from Pratt Institute MFA Writing & Activism program.
Patrick Phillips' third book of poems, Elegy for a Broken Machine, was published by Alfred A. Knopf, and long-listed for the 2015 National Book Award. He is also the author of Boy and Chattahoochee, which won the Kate Tufts Discovery Award. His honors include Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, the Lyric Poetry Award from the Poetry Society of America, a Discovery / The Nation Prize from the 92nd Street Y, and the Translation Prize of the American-Scandinavian Foundation. He lives in Brooklyn and teaches at Drew University.