Poetry & Migration

March 30, 2017

By: ArtPlace America

The Academy of American Poets, the nation’s largest membership-based literary organization, was founded in 1934 to support American poets at all stages of their careers and to foster the appreciation of contemporary poetry. Home to, one of the most visited websites for poetry, the Academy is also responsible for Poem-a-Day, National Poetry Month, and an array of programs and educational resources. In March 2017, the Poetry Coalition launched its inaugural effort, Because We Come from Everything: Poetry & Migration. For this collaborative effort, each organization in the Poetry Coalition brought its unique mission to the task of presenting programs and projects on the theme of migration. People shared their efforts using #WeComeFromEverything.

PBS covered the Poetry Coalition's March programming on the theme of migration on their NewsHour blog


Read some of the moving work by poets who have experienced migration:

María de la Luz Knows How to Walk by Juan Felipe Herrera, U.S. Poet Laureate

Dear Exile, by Mai Der Vang

First Light by Chen Chen

Deception Story by Solmaz Sharif

Self-Portrait as Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong


Jennifer Benka Executive Director at the Academy of American Poets said’ We noticed that for the first time we had poems shared by organizations outside of the literary world that assist immigrants and refugees, including the Pacific Immigrant Resources Society (PIRS) in Vancouver, which empowers immigrant and refugee women and their young children; the Immigration History Research Center Archives at the University of Minnesota Libraries; and the New York Immigration Coalition, which serves 100 member organizations. In response to our asking Poem-a-Day readers what they thought of our week of poems about migration, we had close to 400 people write in so far—more than any other responses we've had to such a call for feedback. Here are three highlights: 

"I was blown away by these poems and shared them with others.  Not only do they stimulate conversation they challenge preconceived stereotypes and perspectives and also touch the heart in unexpected ways.  They reminded me that these poets and their contemporaries are our neighbors and friends and teachers and....  Giving them the recognition and respect they deserve is a way of loving them and loving ourselves and supporting our democracy in the best sense of the word.  Thank you for offering this group of poems.  I hope you do it every year. –Barbara"

"Dear whichever person reads this, Thank you very much for dedicating a week’s worth of emails to immigrants’ and immigration poetry. It's humbling and vital to me to be able to read what these poets share, in order for me to better empathize with an experience I have never undergone, and be surprised and get to clutch at new language. And I appreciate the range of poems and poets you curated. I could stand to have this last longer than a week. Kudos, rock on, etc –Rachel"

"As a transposed man from another country I want to thank you for posting those poems. Each one was different but all moved me and allowed me to travel in the author's steps. As an old migrant without formal school, reading has allowed me to make sense of the culture shock I went through and poetry in particular showed me that we all are one, with a million definitions. Thank you for allowing me to travel far, very far with your generous giving. –Rodrigo"


Plus, we were also happy to hear from poet Naomi Shihab Nye: 

"Dear Friends, I have been deeply moved and encouraged - also stabilized - by the profundity and textural richness of this week's migration-themed poems. They seem healing at this moment - they are poems I would like to share with students everywhere -  this week even in remote northern Wisconsin I've been meeting students who struggle with issues of exile and inclusion - your daily gifts to all readers help us feel part of the greater sane family of voices. Thank you, naomi shihab nye"


From March 20 to March 24, 2017 we had 41,042 people read the above-listed poems we published in our Poem-a-Day series about migration on, and 103,500 via email. 

It's been heartening to see such a strong and positive response.