In the Spotlight

Featuring AWP members who represent AWP’s mission to foster literary achievement, to advance the art of writing as essential to a good education, and to serve the makers, teachers, students, and readers of contemporary writing.

  • Sherwin Bitsui & Allison Adelle Hedge Coke

    Sherwin Bitsui & Allison Adelle Hedge Coke

    “Navajo poets have attempted to define or locate the meaning or phrase(s) for Poetry in Navajo language, but we are constantly debating whether one person’s name for it, which then also houses meaning, is also shared by someone else. In that sense poetry is continually mysterious—a depth within language, it beautifies and generates thought and connection to a moment in time and connects us again to some truth of an experience. It’s energy, carried into the world through utterance and song.” —Sherwin Bitsui

    “Poets, if equipped, if so moved, have the same essential responsibility as any critical time implicates; to address, articulate, call, summon, insist, portray. The entire planet is endangered, in crisis. The consuming empires are literally killing us. To not speak would seem to some criminal” —Allison Adelle Hedge Coke

    About: Sherwin Bitsui (Diné) is originally from White Cone, Arizona, on the Navajo Reservation. He is the author of Shapeshift (University of Arizona Press, 2003), Flood Song (Copper Canyon Press, 2009), and Dissolve (Copper Canyon Press, 2018). In addition to teaching at the Institute of American Indian Arts, he is a member of the faculty at Northern Arizona University. An AWP member since 2005, Sherwin lives in Flagstaff, Arizona.

    About: Allison Adelle Hedge Coke’s books include StreamingBurn, and Effigies III. Her recent awards include the Library of Congress Witter Bynner Fellowship, the First Jade Nurtured SiHui Female International Poetry Award, a Fulbright Fellowship, and the Dan and Maggie Inouye Distinguished Chair in Democratic Ideals. A distinguished professor of creative writing at UC Riverside and a former sharecropper, she has worked fields, factories, and waters. Allison has been an AWP member since 2003.


  • Emma Bolden

    Emma Bolden

    Alabaster, Alabama       Member Since: 2006

    “Now more than ever, it is crucial to support, celebrate, and promote works written, edited, and compiled by underrepresented and marginalized identities. Literature is, in my opinion, the clearest, most intimate representation of the human experience. I feel that it is the responsibility of the publishing industry in general—and small presses in particular—to uplift the voices of the full spectrum of human experience.”

    About: Emma Bolden is a poet and the author of House Is an Enigma (Southeast Missouri State University Press), medi(t)ations (Noctuary Press), and Maleficae (GenPop Books). The recipient of an NEA Fellowship, her work has appeared in The Norton Introduction to Literature, The Best American Poetry, and such journals as the Mississippi Review, The Rumpus, StoryQuarterly, Prairie Schooner, New Madrid, TriQuarterly, Shenandoah, and the Greensboro Review. She serves as associate editor-in-chief for Tupelo Quarterly.


Previously in the Spotlight

  • Octavio Quintanilla

    Octavio Quintanilla

    San Antonio, TX      Member Since: 2016

    “Polish your craft. Spend time reading. Talking about what you read and about what you write. Publication will come and you’ll be happy you were not in a rush.”


  • James McNulty

    James McNulty

    Austin, TX      Member Since: 2016

    “Read as much as you can, and when you do read, don’t just read for the content. Pay attention to the language, the paragraphs, the punctuation: the execution. Don’t write sentences just for their content; instead, look at a sentence as a piece of art that belongs to a larger work of art.”


  • Julie Hensley

    Jenny Romero Llaguno

    Metro Manila, Philippines      Member Since: 2017

    “I read every book I could lay my hands on—literature from all over the world—found in the library, borrowed from friends, some I even bought, gifts from various suitors. I was definitely hooked, intoxicated with words.”


  • Julie Hensley

    Julie Hensley

    Richmond, Kentucky      Member Since: 1999

    “Write what you want to read, and dwell in the work. Let the work sustain you until you find an audience.”


  • Philip Kenney

    Philip Kenney

    Portland, Oregon       Member Since: 2018

    “What I loved about a writing practice from the beginning was that it asked me to be awake… Soon I noticed I was less preoccupied with my insecurities and more present with my experience of the moment and the enchantments of life.”


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In the Spotlight highlights AWP members who are making exceptional contributions to the literary community. Help us honor these generous individuals by sending your nomination today!

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Spotlighted Members

View a complete list of In the Spotlight AWP members.