Utah’s poet laureate gets $50,000 award, in part to support poems about the Great Salt Lake

Retired SLCC professor Lisa Bickmore is named a fellow by The Academy of American Poets.

(Todd Anderson | Utah Division of Arts & Museums) Utah poet laureate Lisa Bickmore has been named a 2023 fellow by The Academy of American Poets, the academy announced on July 25, 2023. The honor comes with a $50,000 award.

A year into her tenure as the state’s poet laureate, Lisa Bickmore has been awarded a $50,000 fellowship from The Academy of American Poets.

Bickmore said she is excited to receive the award, one of 23 fellowship recipients announced Tuesday, especially because of the vision she thinks the academy has for them. “They were interested in projects that would benefit young people, or underserved people,” Bickmore said in a phone interview Tuesday.

The Academy of American Poets is a national, member-supported nonprofit organization based in New York City. According to the group’s website, its “mission is to support American poets at all stages of their careers and to foster the appreciation of contemporary poetry.”

Bickmore is one of two poets in the Mountain West to receive academy fellowships. The other is Lauren Camp, New Mexico’s poet laureate.

Bickmore, a graduate of Brigham Young University, is recently retired from her job as an English professor at Salt Lake Community College. She also founded the nonprofit Lightscatter Press and is a published author.

In a news release, the academy said Bickmore will use the $50,000 award to “create and digitally archive micro-editions of chapbooks with writers throughout Utah.” This includes working with educators to “publish broadsides centered around the ecological crisis facing the Great Salt Lake.”

Broadsides, Bickmore explained, are “a venerable historic form from the early ages of print, where people would share news — but also stories, ballads, poems — in a very quick and cheap form of publication.”

Bickmore said she aimed to join others in Utah who are focusing on the Great Salt Lake.

“I know how much work is going on around that issue and crisis by all kinds of activists, artists, scientists, humanists,” she said. “Ordinary citizens are working on this issue, trying to create more awareness and more action to save the lake, and to come up with more rational water policy in Utah. And I thought that it would be good to lend my effort and the resources that I have to that work.”

Last year, when Gov. Spencer Cox appointed her to the five-year term as Utah’s poet laureate, Bickmore noted her goal to create a mobile micro-press, to print chapbooks and broadsides.

She also said she aims to work on and expand the Utah Poetry Festival — a project started by her predecessor, Paisley Rekdal. (In 2019, the academy awarded Rekdal $100,000 and a fellowship for her work on the festival and the Mapping Literary Utah project.)