Ones to Watch

Get To Know 2023’s Queer NEA Grant Recipients in Creative Writing

· Updated on January 12, 2023

It’s every artist’s dream to secure enough funding to make art in peace, free from the constraints and trappings of the capitalist hamster wheel of death. And for a large number of insanely talented queer poets, artists, and prose writers, that dream came true yesterday, when the latest NEA Grant Recipients were announced.

2023’s group of artists are thinking big, breaking barriers, and fighting for queer liberation in their work. Which is why you need to SMASH that follow button for all of these luminaries like, right now.

Meet this year’s queer NEA cohort and prepare to see big, big things from these gamechangers.

KB Brookins

KB Brookins is a Black, queer, trans writer and poet based in Austin, Texas. In addition to their award-winning 2021 poetry collection How To Identify Yourself with a Wound, they have two forthcoming works, Freedom House (Deep Vellum Publishing) and Pretty (Alfred A. Knopf) in 2023 and 2024 respectively. “Growing up, it was near impossible for me to find someone like me in my immediate space,” Brookins wrote in their personal statement.” To survive that experience, I immersed myself in books, diaries, and lit communities, always attempting to join/make space for others who were also under those conditions.”

Hua Xi

Hua Xi (she/they) is a poet, artist, and the recipient of the 2022 Walt Whitman Birthplace Association Poet-to-Come Scholarship. Per their personal statement, they are “currently writing a set of poems that narrates my own experiences in relation to my family’s long history of mental illness, and looks at the relationship between our minds and the world.”

Bernard Ferguson

Bernard Ferguson is a Bahamian climate writer, poet, essayist, and educator working on The Climate Sirens (Graywolf, 2024), a nonfiction book about the climate crisis. “My work is involved with wanting, dreaming, and proving possible a United States (and a larger global context) where folx like me—Black, immigrant, queer (and/or trans), and disabled—can be free,” they wrote in their statement, “and that such freedoms are critical in the global effort to achieve climate justice.”

Ally Ang

Ally Ang is a Seattle-based gaysian poet, Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, a Tin House workshop alum, and a 2022 Jack Straw Writers Program fellow working on their first full-length poetry collection. “I’ve often questioned why I have devoted so much of myself to something as seemingly self-indulgent as poetry while the world burns around me,” Ang wrote in their statement, “but the answer I keep returning to is that poetry has fueled my survival in a way that nothing else has.”

Ashanti Anderson

Ashanti Anderson is a Black, queer, disabled poet, screenwriter, playwright, and two-time Pushcart Prize nominee living in New Orleans. Their first short story collection Black Under won the Spring 2020 Black River Chapbook Competition at Black Lawrence Press. In their work, they hope to “chase poetry as it wisps past, to search for it down rabbit holes and across stretches of time.”

Jameson Fitzpatrick

Jameson Fitzpatrick is a poet and teacher of first year writing and New York University. “Two months before I went on estrogen, I started writing my way through the last question I felt I had to answer before I could: what would it mean to do this now, at thirtysomething, with all that was already behind me behind me,” she wrote in her statement. Her first novel will explore this question through a series of “literary mirrors.”

Benjamin Garcia


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Benjamin Garcia’s first poetry collection Thrown in the Throat was selected for the National Poetry Series and won the Eugene Paul Nassar Poetry Prize in 2020. He works as a  Sexual Health and Harm Reduction Educator in New York providing HIV, Hepatitis C, STI, and Opiate Overdose Prevention resources in prisons and drug treatment programs. His new work is focused on his grandfather, who died before he had a chance to meet him. “The rope connecting us is ripped from my hands,” he writes in his statement, “but also complicated in new ways I am still unraveling.”

Cyrée Jarelle Johnson

Cyrée Jarelle Johnson is the author of Slingshot, the 2020 Lamdba Literary award winner for new gay poetry. He was the Brooklyn Public Library’s first poet-in-residence, and is at work on a new poetry collection informed by Great Black Migration of the 20th century, familial estrangement, and queer family. “As an artist of the disability justice movement,” Johnson writes in his statement, “I have come to believe that the shape of a poem can act as a body does—carving out a distinctive shape that helps us better understand both the poem itself and the background from which it emerged.”

Brionne Janae

Brionne Janae is a Brooklyn-based poet and teaching artist, as well as the author of the award-winning poetry collections Blessed are the Peacemakers (2021), and After Jubilee (2017.) They also cohost the podcast The Slave is Gone, which counters and questions the AppleTV show “Dickinson.” “For a while now,” Janae writes, “poetry has been a useful way for me to feel and interrogate feeling.”

Natasha Oladokun

Natasha Oladokun is a Black, queer poet and essayist from Virginia and a Cave Canem fellow at work on her first collection of poems. Her work processes and interrogates grief and loss. In her statement, she writes that: “to be called to study language as an instrument, sword, balm, and medicine—then nearly lose my faith in language entirely to grief—is a bitter irony that would almost be funny if it weren’t so entombing.”

Bradley Trumpfheller

A MacDowell Fellow and the author of 2020’s Reconstructions, Trumpfheller is currently turning their sights to poetry. “Poetry is my whole life because it is a way of loving time with people in it,” they wrote in their statement. “Other people’s presences in my life underwrite every single poem: in friendship, in reading, in daydreaming, in memory.”

Stephanie Cawley

The author of the 2020 poetry collection My Heart But Not My Heart hopes to use their grant to escape the trappings of capitalism. “There are possibilities I have not allowed myself to dream of, for time, for travel, for materials, for rest, for connection and community, that now feel newly within reach,” Cawley wrote in their statement. “We all deserve such bounty.”

Evelyn Berry

A trans Southern poet and the author of the forthcoming collection Grief Slut, Evelyn Berry is a museum educator and freelance editor living in South Carolina. “I hope to continue to compose poetry and prose that make visible the lives of transgender people in the American South,” she writes in her statement, “an often-hostile place I call home.”

Donika Kelly

Cave Canem graduate fellow Donika Kelly is a poet, National Book Critics Circle Award finalist, and assistant professor in the English Department at the University of Iowa, where she teaches creative writing. Her poetry collection Bestiary Bestiary was the winner of the 2015 Cave Canem Poetry Prize, as well as the winner of a Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, and a Kate Tufts Discovery Award. “I’ve been thinking lately about time, about simultaneity, and, always, about rest,” she wrote in her statement. “What has happened before, which is also happening now, and when can I lay my body down, lose my mind into its own meanderings and how?”

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