Meet the Poetry Foundation’s Exceptional Young Poetry Fellowship Winners

This September, the Poetry Foundation and Poetry magazine, announced the winners of the 2020 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowships: Isabella Borgeson, Luther Hughes, Cyrée Jarelle Johnson, Darius Simpson, and Khaty Xiong.

Not only will these young poets receive support and encouragement through further study and writing in the poetry form of the choosing, but they will receive a $25,800 prize. In fact, this fellowship is among the largest and most prestigious awards available for young poets in the United States. 

“The 2020 Fellows are educators, organizers, librarians, performers, editors, and mentors as much as they are accomplished and talented poets,” the Poetry Foundation said.

Get to know the five poets and their exceptional work, courtesy of the Poetry Foundation:

Isabella Borgeson

Luther Hughes | Poetry Foundation

A finalist for Best New Poets 2018, Borgeson (she/they) was AIR Serenbe’s 2019 Spoken Word Artist with a commitment to Community and Collaboration. Borgeson is a cofounder and organizer of The Root Slam, a free poetry venue in Oakland dedicated to promoting the artistic growth of the Bay Area poetry community and serving as an inclusive and socially just space.

Luther Hughes

Luther Hughes | Poetry Foundation

Founder of Shade Literary Arts, a literary organization focused on the empowerment and expansion of literature by queer writers of color, Luther Hughes (he/him) is also a winner of the 2020 92Y Discovery Poetry Contest and a cohost of The Poet Salon podcast.  He is the executive editor of The Offing Magazine and an instructor at Hugo House.

Cyrée Jarelle Johnson

Cyrée Jarelle Johnson | Poetry Foundation

Cyrée Jarelle Johnson (he/they) won the 2020 Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry for his collection SLINGSHOT. Johnson is the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Librarian and an assistant professor at Pratt Institute, where they’ve provided innovative library instruction, as well as developed online orientations for students. His honors include fellowships from Columbia University and CultureStrike.

Darius Simpson

Darius Simpson | Poetry Foundation

Winner of the 2020 Laux/Millar Raleigh Review Poetry Prize, Darius Simpson (he/him) is a teaching artist working with middle and high school students throughout Oakland and San Francisco. Simpson is featured in Finding the Gold Within, a documentary on what it means to be a young Black man in America. He has been a finalist for the Crab Creek Review Poetry Prize, the Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry, and the Stanley Kunitz Memorial Prize.

Khaty Xiong

Khaty Xiong | Poetry Foundation

Khaty Xiong (she/her) is the author of three chapbooks and Poor Anima, the first full-length collection of poetry published by a Hmong American woman in the United States. Her poem “On Visiting the Franklin Park Conservatory & Botanical Gardens” was adapted for an immersive poetry installation at the Poetry Foundation Gallery in 2018. Her honors include a Vermont Studio Center Fellowship from the Ohio Arts Council and a Roxane Gay Fellowship in Poetry from Jack Jones Literary Arts.


At 8 p.m. on Thursday, October 8, the Poetry Foundation will celebrate Poetry Day and the 31st anniversary of the Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowships with a reading and Q&A with 2020 Fellows. In this free virtual event, you can hear from some of today’s rising poets on Poetry Day, inaugurated by Robert Frost in 1955.

The Poetry Foundation is an independent literary organization committed to a vigorous presence for poetry in American culture. It seeks to be a leader in shaping a receptive climate for poetry by developing new audiences, creating new avenues for delivery, and encouraging new kinds of poetry through innovative literary prizes and programs.

Upcoming programs, for all ages, include:

October 14 & 21: Poetry Explorers (weekly family activity time)

October 17: Readings for Young People series starts with a session for teens led by Young People’s Poet Laureate Naomi Shihab Nye on October 17, followed by a Halloween session with Carson Elllis.


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Macaire Douglas

Macaire Douglas lives in the Chicago suburbs with her husband and two sons. She proudly supports Save Abandoned Babies Foundation, a Chicago-based nonprofit organization that works tirelessly to prevent the illegal abandonment of newborns nationwide. Since its inception in 2000, more than 3,600 newborns have been safely surrendered and adopted into loving homes.