Jennifer Benka

Former President & Executive Director at The Academy of American Poets, Inc.

Jennifer Benka

Jennifer Benka

Former President & Executive Director at The Academy of American Poets, Inc.

Biography

Jennifer Benka

As President and Executive Director of the Academy of American Poets, Jen advocates for poets, poetry, and the work of poetry organizations nationwide. She has been interviewed by publications and programs including ABC News, the Associated Press, CBC Radio, CNN, GO Magazine, Newsday, PBS NewsHour, PBS Books, Public Radio International, Publishers Weekly, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and WNYC.

In 2019 - 2020, she secured $6.7 million from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support the Poetry Coalition and the Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellowships, which enable poets' civic programs, making the organization the largest funder of poets. She is one of seven arts leaders responsible for launching and administering Artist Relief, a $15 million emergency fund for artists and writers affected by Covid-19. She also initiated the $3.5 million Literary Arts Emergency Fund.

She oversees Poets.org and led a redesign of the site; the Poem-a-Day series, which she relaunched as the first place of publication for poems, resulting in the Academy becoming one of the most prolific publishers of contemporary poetry; National Poetry Month; the American Poets Prizes, grants and awards; American Poets magazine; readings and conversations, and an annual event at Lincoln Center; and K-12 poetry resources for teachers, including Teach This Poem, which she helped design and which won the 2018 Innovations in Reading Prize from the National Book Foundation. She also helped launch and administers the Poetry Coalition, an alliance of 25+ nonprofit poetry organizations across the United States.

Jen is a frequent recommender and judge for numerous national and international poetry fellowships, residencies, and awards offered by other institutions, including the Lambda Literary Awards, the National Student Poets, and National Youth Poet Laureate.

For much of her more than 25 years in nonprofit management, Jen has helped lead national organizations dedicated to writing and poetry. Before joining the Academy of American Poets, Jen was the National Director of Development and Marketing for 826 National, a youth writing organization based in San Francisco, founded by the award-winning author Dave Eggers. There, she led trainings for leaders from around the world interested in developing, funding, and marketing nonprofit arts and literacy programs. Before 826, she was a part of the leadership team that launched The Bay Citizen, a $17 million journalism startup affiliated with The New York Times, serving as the Vice President of Development. Prior to her time in the Bay Area, she worked in New York City for nearly a decade as the Managing Director of Poets & Writers where she oversaw Poets & Writers Magazine, PW.org, program, and administrative staff, and helped lead a multi-million dollar capital campaign that succeeded in expanding a national grantmaking program supporting poets and writers giving readings and workshops in several cities, and establishing the Jackson Poetry Prize. She has served on the Boards of Small Press Traffic in San Francisco and Woodland Pattern Book Center in Milwaukee, and on arts and literature grantmaking panels for the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Milwaukee County Cultural Artistic and Musical Programming Advisory Council, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, and the New York State Council on the Arts.

Jen is also the author of the poetry collections Pinko (Hanging Loose Press, 2011) and A Box of Longing With Fifty Drawers (Soft Skull Press, 2005); the artist book Preamble, a collaboration with artist Mark Wagner (Booklyn, 2003), which is in collections at SFMOMA, the British Library, and the Library of Congress; and co-author, with poet Carol Mirakove, of the chapbook, 1,138 (Belladonna, 2007). Her essays, opinion pieces, and poems have appeared in numerous publications, including the Awl, Brooklyn Rail, ElectricLit, Huffington Post, Crossing State Lines: An American Renga (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011), Reading Queer: Poetry in a Time of Chaos (Anhinga Press, 2018), and Feminisms in Motion (AK Press, 2018). Jen holds a BA degree in Journalism from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and an MFA degree in creative writing from The New School University in New York, New York.

Overview
Career Highlights

The Academy of American Poets, Inc.

RelSci Relationships

79

Number of Boards

3

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Vice Chairman at The Academy of American Poets, Inc.

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Former President & Executive Director at The Academy of American Poets, Inc.

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Interim Executive Director at The Academy of American Poets, Inc.

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Chairman, Board of Directors at The Academy of American Poets, Inc.

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Member, Board of Directors at The Academy of American Poets, Inc.

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Managing Director at Goldman Sachs & Co. LLC

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Founder at Ruder Finn, Inc.

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Partner at Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP

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Member of the Advisory Committee, Americas Division at Human Rights Watch, Inc.

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Honorary Consul General at Embassy of Democratic Republic of the Congo in the United States

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Jennifer Benka
Former President & Executive Director at The Academy of American Poets, Inc.
Education
BA in Journalism
MFA in Poetry
Career History
President & Executive Director
Current

The Academy of American Poets is an American private company located in New York, NY. The firm operates as an association which promotes poets and art.

Managing Director
Prior

To foster the professional development of poets and writers, to promote communication throughout the literary community, and to help create an environment in which literature can be appreciated by the widest possible public.

National Director, Development & Marketing
Prior

826 National amplifies the impact of our national network of youth writing and publishing centers, and the words of young authors. We serve as an international proof of point for writing as a tool for young people to ignite and channel their creativity, explore identity, advocate for themselves and their community, and achieve academic and professional success.

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