The Academy of American Poets announced on January 15 that Arizona Poet Laureate Alberto Ríos has been elected Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. This is a highly distinguished, honorary position that has been held by some of our country’s most prominent poets, including Marianne Moore, W. H. Auden, Elizabeth Bishop, Lucille Clifton, Adrienne Rich, Yusef Komunyakaa and John Ashbery.
As a member of the Board of Chancellors, Ríos will consult with the organization on matters of artistic programming, serve as a judge for the organization’s largest prizes for poets and act as an ambassador of poetry in the world at large.
“Being elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets is an acknowledgment of the fact that Alberto Álvaro Ríos is among the most important contemporary poets now producing major work in the U.S.,” says Cynthia Hogue, Professor of English at Arizona State University. “The Academy of American Poets singles out artists who have a demonstrated track record of national service to the arts, broadly speaking, and specifically, to the field of poetry.”
According to Tyler Meier, Executive Director of the University of Arizona Poetry Center, “This appointment amplifies Ríos’ work as the inaugural state poet laureate of Arizona, providing an even broader platform for the public life for poetry he’s been working to create in the American southwest for the past thirty years.” He adds, “Ríos’ appointment shines an even brighter light on the concerns and pleasures of his work: on the rich borderland desert geography of Arizona, on memory as story maker and keeper, on the pleasures of sensory experiences that alter regular perception just enough that the world feels suddenly new, and raw and thrilling again.”
This is only the latest in a long line of honors the poet has received, having previously been awarded fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, six Pushcart Prizes and the Arizona Governor’s Arts Award. In August 2013 Rios was named Arizona’s first state Poet Laureate.
Reflecting on his new appointment, Rios said, “From a first-grade desk at Coronado Elementary School in Nogales, Arizona to the Academy of American Poets board of chancellors: This has been one long, unpredictable and wonderful road trip, with many miles yet to travel. It’s been a voyage of language and thought, which I think is a good story in today’s world.”