Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

The Future of American Poetry Is In Their Hands

The work of three young Nashville poets is earning national attention


It’s easy for old cranks to complain about kids and their symbiotic devices, but the truth—if Nashville’s young poets are any indication—is that the future of literature is in good hands.

Marissa Davis

The good news coming from the Vanderbilt M.F.A. program in creative writing is pretty much non-stop these days—book deals, major prizes, stellar reviews—and now two of the program’s undergraduate writers are stepping into the spotlight, too: Ariana Yeatts-Lonske and Marissa Davis have just received fellowships to attend the prestigious Bucknell Seminar for Undergraduate Poets this summer.

Ariana Yeatts-Lonske

“Only ten fellowships are awarded in a highly competitive national selection process,” program director Kate Daniels told Chapter 16. “Vanderbilt Creative Writing has received twenty percent of the 2017 awards!”

This astonishing math is the result of concerted effort: “Two years ago, we began working on our undergraduate creative writing program, increasing its visibility, enlarging course offerings, developing a minor, and developing a repertoire of extracurricular activities and events designed to enrich the experience of our undergrads who devote themselves to creative writing during the four years they are with us,” Daniels says. The Bucknell news “is a good example of the increasingly expanded vision our creative writing majors are beginning to adopt.” 

It’s fair to say that Belmont University undergraduate Lagnajita Mukhopadhyay is taking a similar look at the wider world of poetry. Named Nashville’s first Youth Poet Laureate in 2015 and Southeast Regional Youth Poet Laureate in 2016, she will join National Book Award winner Jacqueline Woodson for a public reading this weekend at the Poetry Foundation in Chicago as part of the festivities leading to the announcement of a new National Youth Poet Laureate. Last fall Mukhopadhyay, a graduate of Hume-Fogg Academic Magnet High School in Nashville, was invited to meet with First Lady Michelle Obama and perform at the White House with the other finalists who will read in Chicago this weekend.

Lagnajita Mukhopadhyay, second from right, with First Lady Michelle Obama and the other regional Youth Poets Laureate

The new National Youth Poet Laureate will be named in April, but Mukhopadhyay isn’t worried: ” I am just excited to get to read in such a great place like the Poetry Foundation and be introduced by Jaqueline Woodson,” she told Chapter 16 in an email.

To read more about Lagnajita Mukhopadhyay, click here.

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