Founded in 1996 by poets Toi Derricotte and Cornelius Eady as a summer retreat for African American poets. The program now includes workshops around the country, poetry readings, and a first book prize.

The primary program is the retreat at Cranbrook. Derricote and Eady have created a safe, nurturing place of fellowship for emerging Black poets which gives them an "opportunity to work together in an affirming atmosphere, to study with accomplished teachers, and to join a national community of writers." Because entry is based on the quality of work, fellows get to meet and network with the most accomplished, emerging Black poets in the country. Once accepted into the program, fellows may return three times during a five year period. Only 5 to 8 new fellowships are given every year out of over 150 applications.

Unlike most writer's colonies or writer's retreats, or workshops, Cave Canem is free of charge. (Except for room and board fees). Applications for a fellowship are usually accepted in the Fall. It would be good to get guidelines, however, the application consists of a cover letter and six sample poems. Manuscripts for the first book prize are accepted in the Spring. The winning manuscript is usually chosen by an established poet. The 2000 prize was judged by Rita Dove. Scholarships to pay for room and board are available to poets who are accepted as fellows.

Past guest faculty include:
  • Lucille Clifton
  • August Wilson
  • Sonia Sanchez and
  • Walter Mosely
  • Elizabeth Alexander
  • Michael S. Harper

    Cave Canem takes its name from a floor tile in Pompeii. While on vacation in Italy, Deerricote and Eady had spent the afternoon discussing and dreaming about a safe place to write and critique new work. So often, as Black poets, they had to explain every cultural metaphor and spend precious workshop time giving history lessons rather than discussing the poem. Toi looked down and saw the tile. As an African American poet, she identified so strongly with the dog in the tile. It was then that Cave Canem was conceived and they named it after that moment.

    Latin - translation, Beware The Dog.

    More information or to apply write: Cave Canem, PO Box 4286, Charlottesville, Virginia 22902 or email cavecanempoets@aol.com
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