Saint Mary’s Brenda Hillman Named Academy of American Poets Chancellor

Professor Brenda Hillman.The Academy of American Poets has named Saint Mary's English Professor Brenda Hillman as its newest Chancellor, an honorary position that has been held by some of the most distinguished poets in the United States, including W. H. Auden, John Ashbery, Elizabeth Bishop, Lucille Clifton, Yusef Komunyakaa, Adrienne Rich, and Mark Strand.

The Academy of American Poets is the nation’s largest membership-based nonprofit organization championing poets and poetry. Since its founding in 1934, the Academy has awarded more money to poets than any other organization through its American Poets Prizes.

“The Academy of American Poets recognition of Brenda Hillman is a tremendous honor. The entire Saint Mary’s community is extremely proud of her and inspired by her literary achievements. She is a remarkable poet and, as her students will affirm, she is an extraordinary teacher,” said Saint Mary’s President James Donahue.

As a member of the Board of Chancellors, Hillman will consult with the organization on artistic programming, serve as a judge for the organization’s largest prizes for poets, and act as ambassador of poetry in the world at large. 

Saint Mary’s Dean of the School of Liberal Arts Sheila Hassell Hughes also expressed pride in Hillman’s appointment. “We are so proud to have one of the most important and inspiring of American poets today on our faculty.” She added “Audre Lorde wrote that ‘poetry is the quality of light by which we scrutinize our lives,’ and Brenda Hillman’s work enlightens her readers and students in such rich ways. I know she’ll make the most of the opportunity to support and advocate for poetry in this new role.”

Hillman, Saint Mary’s Olivia C. Filippi Professor of Poetry, is the author of nine full-length collections from Wesleyan University Press, the most recent of which, Seasonal Works with Letters on Fire (2013) received the International Griffin Poetry Prize and Practical Water (2009), was the recipient of the Los Angeles Times Book Award. Her literary works also include Pieces of Air in the Epic (2005); Cascadia (2001); Loose Sugar (1997), a finalist for the National Book Critic’s Circle; and Bright Existence (1993), a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

Her other honors include awards and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Poetry Society of America, along with a Bay Area Book Reviewers Association Award, a Pushcart Prize, and the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award. 

Hillman was selected by the 15 members of the Academy’s current Board of Chancellors, which includes U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera. She will serve for a period of six years, filling the seat vacated by Naomi Shihab Nye, whose term as Chancellor has concluded.

For more than three generations, the Academy has connected millions of people to great poetry through programs such as National Poetry Month, the largest literary celebration in the world;, the Academy’s popular website; American Poets, a biannual literary journal; and an annual series of poetry readings and special events. For more information, visit


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