Jennifer Benka

Executive Director at The Academy of American Poets, Inc.

Jennifer Benka

Jennifer Benka

Executive Director at The Academy of American Poets, Inc.

Biography

Jennifer Benka

As President and Executive Director of the Academy of American Poets, Jen is an advocate 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. She has been called "one of American poetry's biggest lobbyists" by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and "one of the busiest women in poetry" and someone who "believes poetry can improve the world" by the Chicago Review of Books.

She 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. In her day-to-day role she oversees Poets.org, the Poem-a-Day series, National Poetry Month, the American Poets Prizes, grants and awards, Teach This Poem and K-12 poetry resources for teachers, American Poets magazine, readings and conversations, and coordinates the Poetry Coalition, an alliance of 20+ nonprofit poetry organizations across the United States. In 2019, she secured $2.2 million from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support the Poetry Coalition and launch the Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellowships, which will enable civic programs.

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 nonprofit leaders around the world interested in developing, funding, and marketing 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, web, program, and administrative staff, and helped lead a multi-million dollar capital campaign that succeeded in expanding a national grantmaking program supporting poets 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 poetry from The New School University in New York, New York.

Overview
Career Highlights

The Academy of American Poets, Inc.

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82

Number of Boards

3

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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, Americas Division Advisory Committee 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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Member, Board of Directors at The Academy of American Poets, Inc.

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Jennifer Benka
Executive Director at The Academy of American Poets, Inc.
Education
BA in Journalism

Marquette is a Catholic and Jesuit university in Milwaukee, Wis., dedicated to serving God by serving our students and contributing to the advancement of knowledge. Enrollment: Almost 8,300 undergraduate and 3,500 graduate and professional students; all states and 69 countries represented Undergraduate programs: 77 majors and 65 minors and pre-professional programs in dentistry, law and medicine

MFA in Poetry

The New School provides education services. It offers art, design, liberal arts, environment, global issues, media and technology, and social science courses. The firm also offers undergraduate, graduate and adult programs. The company was founded in 1919 and is headquartered in New York, NY.

Career History
Executive Director
Current

TODAY, THE ACADEMY FULFILLS THE FIRST PORTION OF ITS ORIGINAL MISSION ("TO SUPPORT AMERICAN POETS AT ALL STAGES OF THEIR CAREERS") BY ADMINISTERING SEVEN MAJOR AWARDS-FROM A FIRST-BOOK PRIZE THROUGH A LIFETIME-ACHIEVEMENT AWARD-AND NEARLY 200 COLLEGE PRIZES AT SCHOOLS ACROSS THE COUNTRY. TO FULFILL THE SECOND HALF OUR MISSION ("TO FOSTER THE APPRECIATION OF CONTEMPORARY POETRY"), THE ACADEMY ADMINISTERS SEVERAL PROGRAMS: POETS.ORG, THE AWARD-WINNING WEBSITE WHICH WAS LAUNCHED IN 1997 AND NOW RECEIVES ONE MILLION UNIQUE VISITORS EACH MONTH; NATIONAL POETRY MONTH (APRIL), ESTABLISHED BY THE ACADEMY IN 1996 AND NOW THE LARGEST LITERARY CELEBRATION IN THE WORLD; THE ONLINE POETRY CLASSROOM, AN ONLINE RESOURCE PROVIDING FREE POETRY LESSON PLANS AND OTHER TOOLS FOR TEACHERS; THE POETRY AUDIO ARCHIVE, A COLLECTION OF NEARLY 500 RECORDINGS DATING BACK TO THE 1960S; AND AMERICAN POET, OUR BIANNUAL LITERARY JOURNAL AND MAGAZINE FOR MEMBERS.

National Director, Development & Marketing
Prior
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.

Boards & Committees
Board Member
Prior
Member, Board of Directors
Current

TODAY, THE ACADEMY FULFILLS THE FIRST PORTION OF ITS ORIGINAL MISSION ("TO SUPPORT AMERICAN POETS AT ALL STAGES OF THEIR CAREERS") BY ADMINISTERING SEVEN MAJOR AWARDS-FROM A FIRST-BOOK PRIZE THROUGH A LIFETIME-ACHIEVEMENT AWARD-AND NEARLY 200 COLLEGE PRIZES AT SCHOOLS ACROSS THE COUNTRY. TO FULFILL THE SECOND HALF OUR MISSION ("TO FOSTER THE APPRECIATION OF CONTEMPORARY POETRY"), THE ACADEMY ADMINISTERS SEVERAL PROGRAMS: POETS.ORG, THE AWARD-WINNING WEBSITE WHICH WAS LAUNCHED IN 1997 AND NOW RECEIVES ONE MILLION UNIQUE VISITORS EACH MONTH; NATIONAL POETRY MONTH (APRIL), ESTABLISHED BY THE ACADEMY IN 1996 AND NOW THE LARGEST LITERARY CELEBRATION IN THE WORLD; THE ONLINE POETRY CLASSROOM, AN ONLINE RESOURCE PROVIDING FREE POETRY LESSON PLANS AND OTHER TOOLS FOR TEACHERS; THE POETRY AUDIO ARCHIVE, A COLLECTION OF NEARLY 500 RECORDINGS DATING BACK TO THE 1960S; AND AMERICAN POET, OUR BIANNUAL LITERARY JOURNAL AND MAGAZINE FOR MEMBERS.

Member, Board of Directors
Prior
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