Alumnus Cyrée Jarelle Johnson '19 Wins 2020 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship

Nicole Saldarriaga
September 18, 2020
Cyrée Jarelle Johnson

The Poetry Foundation and Poetry magazine announced September 10, 2020 that Alumnus Cyrée Jarelle Johnson '19 is among the five winners of the 2020 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship.

This prestigious award carries a monetary prize of $25,800, making it one of the largest awards available to young poets in the United States. The prize is intended to help support and encourage poets between the ages of 21 and 31 to continue their study and writing of poetry.

Johnson was previously awarded the renowned Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry for their book, Slingshot (Nightboat Books, 2019), comprised of poems that Lambda reviewers call "works of ornate and deft craftsmanship" with "strange, precise, sumptuous and formal poetic technique." 

Fellow Lambda Award winning author Leah Lakshmi says "I reach for...Johnson's writing over and over again. Their black disabled femme genderqueer brilliant insights and poetics are crucially important to our collective survival. Unflinchingly committed to telling truth with lyrical precision and real talk, rooted deep in their black femme crip Jersey soil." 

In an interview with BK Reader, Johnson shares their joy at having their poetry recognized by the Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship, especially after taking the financial risk of pursuing an MFA in poetry. "Being a poet is a gamble," they said, "I don't do it for the money. Money is great, but people are usually in poetry because they already have money. That's not me—I'm from a working class background, I work as a librarian." 

Johnson is the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Librarian and an assistant professor at Pratt Institute, where they provide innovative library instruction, as well as develop online orientations for students. Their work has appeared in The New York TimesBoston ReviewWUSSYThe WandererViceRewire NewsThe Root, and Nat. Brut among other publications. 

Slingshot is available for purchase here.