Gwenn A. Nusbaum-WWBA Scholarship

Gwenn A. Nusbaum-WWBA Scholarship

2024 Scholarship Recipient: Samuel Burt

Walt Whitman Birthplace Association (WWBA) congratulates the Gwenn A. Nusbaum-WWBA 2024 Scholarship recipient, Samuel Burt.  The $1800 scholarship is offered in the spirit of Walt Whitman’s poem, “O Me! O Life!” He writes: “That you are here – that life exists and identity, / That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.”

Samuel Burt is a poet and artist from Grinnell, Iowa. A 2022 winner of the AWP’s Intro Journals Project, Samuel’s poems have been featured in Salt Hill, Colorado Review, The Journal, Arc Poetry Magazine, and many more print and digital journals. He holds a poetry MFA from Bowling Green State University, reads for Fahmidan Journal, and works at the Grinnell College Libraries.



Applications are sought from those poets at the early stages of their careers, ages 25-35 years.  This scholarship, awarded every year, aims to encourage and assist an emerging poet in their creative poetry writing endeavors.  Their emerging poetry career should be of exceptional artistic quality and should demonstrate a passion for poetry, an awareness of the power of the poem, an originality of perspective and skillful use of expressive language.  They will be expected to produce additional strong work during the scholarship timeline of one year, July 1, 2024 – July 1, 2025.

The Scholarship is administered by WWBA.  The winner is selected by an independent and diverse panel of three (3) judges who may include, but are not limited to, poets, professors, scholars, writers and WWBA representatives. Past Panelists included Victoria Chang, Cornelius Eady, Juan Filipe Herrera, Jane Hirshfield, Dean Kostos, Molly Peacock, and WWBA representative Trustee Robert Savino. Panelists for 2024 include Kwame Dawes and Dorianne Laux.


Nguyen is the author of Dear Diaspora (University of Nebraska Press 2021), which won the Prairie Schooner Book Prize, an Outstanding Achievement Award from the Association of Asian American Studies, a New Mexico-Arizona Book Award, and was a finalist for the Julie Suk Award. Her poems have been nominated for Best of the Net and a Pushcart Prize and have appeared or are forthcoming in The Academy of American Poets’ Poem-A-Day series, The American Poetry Review, Poetry Northwest, The Rumpus, Tin House, and elsewhere. The recipient of fellowships from the AZ Commission on the Arts, the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing, and the 2022 Stanley Kunitz Memorial Prize from the American Poetry Review, she currently serves as the Senior Editor of Hayden’s Ferry Review.


Susan was selected by the 2023 Panel of Judges:  Victoria Chang, Juan Felipe Herrera, Jane Hirshfield, Trustee Robert Savino and Executive Director Cynthia Shor.

During the scholarship year, Hua plans to publish a first chapbook of poetry and finish a first poetry book manuscript.  Hua is interested in the mind and its internal languages, and writes about ways “we internally process the pain of the world.  The interior world can be as vast as the actual one, a place where things happen both forwards and backwards, simultaneously and years apart, where everything is true but nothing is real.” Hua began major poetry publication in 2018 and has received writing awards from Yale Writing Center Essay Contest and Boston Review Poetry Contest, among other awards, with essays published in the Harvard Review and the Wall Street Journal. Hua is a first-generation immigrant and has served as a family caretaker. Hua received a BA in Media Studies from Yale University, and is currently teaching art at the Parsons School of Design at The New School.

Poet panelists

“The poet’s language is vivid and visceral; his courage and honesty blaze a path in poem after poem. This is the music of survival and transcendence. Indeed, the poetry of Kwame Dawes makes the impossible possible.” —Martin Espada

“Kwame Dawes is one of the most important writers of his generation who has built a mighty and lasting body of work…” —Elizabeth Alexander

“Majestic is the word that comes to mind reading the finely wrought poems of Kwame Dawes…a sublime talent is needed to fashion poems of such capacious grace and energy.” —Terrance Hayes

Born in Ghana in 1962, Kwame Dawes spent most of his childhood and early adult life in Jamaica. He is a writer of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and plays. As a poet, he is profoundly influenced by the rhythms and textures of Ghana, citing in an interview his “spiritual, intellectual, and emotional engagement with reggae music.” Indeed, his book Bob Marley: Lyrical Genius remains the most authoritative study of the lyrics of Bob Marley.

Dawes is an actor, playwright, and producer, an accomplished storyteller, broadcaster, and was the lead singer in Ujamaa, a reggae band. Fifteen of his plays have been produced, and he has acted in, directed, or produced several of these productions himself, most recently One Love at the Lyric Hammersmith in London. Commissioned by Talawa, Britian’s leading black theatre company, and inspired by Rogert Mais’ classic novel Brotherman, One Love takes us to the heart of the Jamaican soul, as actors, dancers, singers, life musicians, and a DJ draw on influences such as Bob Marley and Lee “Scratch” Perry to tell this powerful parable of desire and denial. Through the years, Dawes has collaborated with musicians and artists to create a dynamic series of performances based on his poetry that have proven to be some of the most compelling and challenging presentations of poetry being performed today. Wisteria is a multimedia performance with composer Kevin Simmonds, who set the poems from Dawes’ book of the same name, to music. The result is an evening-length performance that explores the life of women who lived through the Jim Crow period in Sumter, South Carolina.

In 2022, Dawes was named the 2022 Brittle Paper Literary Person of the Year. Until July 2011, Dawes was Distinguished Poet in Residence, Louis Frye Scudder Professor of Liberal Arts, and founder and executive director of the South Carolina Poetry Initiative. He was the director of the University of South Carolina Arts Institute and is the Artistic Director of the Calabash International Literary Festival, which takes place in Jamaica in May of each year. Dawes is currently the Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner at the University of Nebraska, where he is a Chancellor’s Professor of English, a faculty member of Cave Canem, and a teacher in the Pacific MFA Program in Oregon.

In 2009, Dawes won an Emmy for, an interactive site based on his Pulitzer Center project, HOPE: Living and loving with AIDS in Jamaica. It has also won other accolades, including a People’s Voice Webby Award, and was the inspiration for the music/spoken word performance Wisteria & HOPE which premiered at the National Black Theatre Festival in North Carolina. In 2011, Dawes reported on HIV AIDS after the earthquake in Haiti; and his poems, blogs, articles, and documentary work were a key part of the post-earthquake Haiti reporting by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting that won the National Press Club Joan Friedenberg Award for Online Journalism.

Of his sixteen collections of poetry, his most recent titles include Nebraska (UNP, 2019), Duppy Conqueror (Copper Canyon, 2013), shortlisted for the PEN Open Book Award; Wheels (2011); Back of Mount Peace (2009); Hope’s Hospice (2009); Wisteria, finalist for the Patterson Memorial Prize; Impossible Flying (2007); and Gomer’s Song (2007). Progeny of Air (Peepal Tree, 1994) was the winner of the Forward Poetry Prize for Best First Collection in the UK. Other poetry collections include Resisting the Anomie (Goose Lane, 1995); Prophets (Peepal Tree, 1995); Jacko Jacobus, (Peepal Tree, 1996); and Requiem, (Peepal Tree, 1996), a suite of poems inspired by the illustrations of African American artist Tom Feelings in his landmark book The Middle Passage: White Ships/Black Cargo; and Shook Foil (Peepal Tree, 1998), a collection of reggae-inspired poems. His book, Midland, was awarded the Hollis Summers Poetry Prize by the Ohio University Press (2001). Dawes was a winner of a Pushcart Prize for the best American poetry of 2001 for his long poem, “Inheritance.” His seventeenth collection, City of Bones, was published in 2017 along with two UK releases Vuelo: Poemas, a translation of Gustavo Osorio and Speak from Here to There: Poems written along with John Kinsella. He was also among the 2018 recipients for the Windham-Campbell Prize for Poetry.

He has published two novels: Bivouac (Akashic Books, 2009 & 2019) and She’s Gone (2007), winner of the 2008 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Best First Novel. In 2007 he released A Far Cry From Plymouth Rock: A Personal Narrative. His essays have appeared in numerous journals including Bomb Magazine, The London Review of Books, Granta, Essence, World Literature Today, and Double Take Magazine.

Dawes is also the editor of several anthologies: Bearden’s Odyssey: Poets Respond to the Art of Romare Bearden (Northwestern University Press), A Bloom of Stones: A Tri-Lingual Anthology of Haitian Poems After the Earthquake (Peepal Tree Press), New Generation African Poets: A Chapbook Boxset (Akashic Books), When the Rewards Can Be So Great: Essays on Writing and the Writing Life (Pacific University Press), Hold Me to an Island: Caribbean Place: An Anthology of Writing, Home is Where: An Anthology of African American Poetry from the Carolinas (Hub City, 2011), and Red: Contemporary Black Poetry (Peepal Tree Press, 2010).

He is a regular blogger for the Poetry Foundation; his blogs can be read at

Dorianne Laux was born on January 10, 1952, in Augusta, Maine. She received a BA in English from Mills College in 1988.

Laux is the author of the textbook Finger Exercises for Poets (W. W. Norton, 2024), as well as the poetry collections Life on Earth (W. W. Norton, 2024); Only as the Day Is Long: New and Selected Poems (W. W. Norton, 2019), a finalist for the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry; The Book of Women (Red Dragonfly Press, 2012); The Book of Men (W. W. Norton, 2011), which won the Paterson Prize and the Roanoke-Chowan Award; Facts About the Moon (W. W. Norton, 2005), which was the recipient of both the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize and the Oregon Book Award, chosen by Ai, as well as a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; Smoke (BOA Editions, 2000); What We Carry (BOA Editions, 1994), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; and Awake (BOA Editions, 1990), which was nominated for the San Francisco Bay Area Book Critics Award for Poetry. Her poems have been translated into French, Italian, Korean, Romanian, Afrikaans, Dutch, and Brazilian Portuguese.

About Laux’s work, the poet Tony Hoagland has said,

Her poems are those of a grown American woman, one who looks clearly, passionately, and affectionately at rites of passage, motherhood, the life of work, sisterhood, and especially sexual love, in a celebratory fashion.

Laux is also coauthor (with Kim Addonizio) of The Poet’s Companion: A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry (W. W. Norton, 1997). Among her awards are a Pushcart Prize, an Editor’s Choice III Award, and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

In 2020, Laux was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. She has taught at the University of Oregon’s program in creative writing. She lives with her husband, poet Joseph Millar, in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she taught in the MFA program at North Carolina State University until her retirement in 2022.

Robert Savino (born April 24, 1948, Jamaica, NY) is a native Long Island poet, Suffolk County Poet Laureate 2015–2017, Board Member at the Walt Whitman Birthplace and at the Long Island Poetry & Literature Repository Center. He is the winner of the 2008 Oberon Poetry Prize, Association of Italian American Educators – Cristoforo Colombo Award for Literary Leadership (2019), and Town of Islip Italian American Heritage Award for Visual & Performing Arts – in Literature (2019). Robert was first inspired by Blake and Whitman in the sixties when everything became not as ordinary as it appeared and he began a life sentence in a metaphoric mind.

His poetry has been widely published in journals, anthologies, and online, including The Haight Ashbury Literary JournalLong Island QuarterlyMobius, Negative CapabilityThe North American Review and Sport Literate; and his poems have been written for art and music. One of the poems, “October’s Opal,” was composed by Yung Shen Hsaio as a four-instrument musical ensemble piece and presented at the 2017 International Rostrum of Composers and Conservatorio Vincenzo Bellini, Palermo, Italy.

Robert is co-editor of two bilingual collections of Italian Americans Poets, No Distance Between Us – Italian American Poets of Long Island and No Distance Between Us – The Next Collection – Italian American Poets of New York State. His books include Fireballs of an Illuminated ScarecrowInside a Turtle Shell and I’m Not the Only One Here. No Distance Between Us (Nessuna Distanza Tra Noi) is scheduled to become a trilogy of Italian American poetry in a cultural tribute to Dante Aligheri. Inside a Turtle Shell, a diverse journey of paths crossed, lost and found, was selected as the second collection in the three-volume Turtle Island Series (Allbook Books).

Robert lives in West Islip, NY, with his wife and enjoys the role of poetry mentor.

Gwenn A. Nusbaum earned her B.A. in Psychology from Hofstra University and Master of Social Work from New York University, as well as numerous post-graduate certifications in psychotherapy and psychoanalysis, group psychotherapy, eating disorders, addictions, trauma, and recovery. Spanning over 35 years, Gwenn maintained a psychoanalytic private practice in the East Village of Manhattan, from which she recently retired, as well as taught and published in the field of her specialty work with women having histories of childhood sexual traumas. In 2020, Gwenn added WordPaint Coaching & Mentoring services to extend her reach via virtual sessions, to creators and those more isolated in their workspaces. Now she exclusively provides creativity and life coaching, as well as mentoring to anyone wishing to develop their personal and creative lives, as well as projects. Since her youth, poetry has been a mainstay of Gwenn’s life. Her long-term mentorship with the late poet and memoirist, Colette Inez, provided an invaluable opportunity for her to develop as a poet, as does continued engagement with crafts-building workshops. Gwenn’s poems have received a Pushcart Nomination and Honorary Mention. They appear in several on-line and print literary journals including Brief Wilderness, Cumberland River Review, Diverse Voices Quarterly, Edison Literary Review, Evening Street Review, Passager, Pink Panther Magazine, Psychoanalytic Perspectives, Rattle, Salamander, Schuylkill Valley Journal, Verse Virtual, and Voices de la Luna. She is also the author of the poetry chapbook, “Normal War.” Gwenn is deeply honored to support the Gwenn A. Nusbaum-WWBA Scholarship as well as delighted to be on the WWBA Board of Trustees, resonating with Walt Whitman’s humanistic values and reverence for the natural world.


Click any tab below to learn more about the scholarship guidelines.

Must be a US Citizen of 25-35 years of age.

Demonstrate a scholastic or pre-professional track of outstanding poetic writing; all poetic forms, styles, types, themes and topics are acceptable.

Online submissions only:  visit

  1. Applicant MUST include one (1) of two options below AND a Cover Letter
  2. Ten (10) poems, OR
  3. Use five (5) of your own poems interwoven with a narrative statement
  4. Cover Letter

Please provide a cover letter with your name, address, email, phone, and a CV or Resume (no more than three pages).  CV should contain your education history, publication history, awards, performances and readings, and, if applicable, any past poetry projects. Cover letter should include a statement of intent for professional writing goals.  Cover letter should indicate expenditure plans for the scholarship funds.  Please include contact information for one reference who will be emailed if the applicant moves to the finalist stage.

Honorarium of $1800 must be used within one (1) year of endowment (July 1, 2024 – July 1, 2025).

Funding to be used for supportive activities to further the writing career: for example,  writing courses and workshops; writing conferences; writing retreats, or other approved activities.

WWBA Award Committee shall be supportive of the Honoree and will offer approval for intended use(s) of honorarium.

Honoree shall maintain contact with WWBA Award Committee.

Honoree shall demonstrate significant progress as described in a final report to the WWBA Award Committee.  This may be a summary and/or short video of experiences toward growth, productivity and achievement of goals. 

Honoree receives a onetime scholarship of $1800.

WWBA offers Association support which may include use of the WWBA Archive & Library, consultations with Archive Curator,  letters of introduction, and promotional articles and activities.

Honoree will be featured on WWBA website.
Honoree is invited to conclude their award year with a poetry reading at the Whitman Birthplace in person or via Zoom at the Award Ceremony in June 2025.

Good luck to all Applicants

Address questions to:   Cynthia Shor, WWBA Executive Director:


POETS to come! orators, singers, musicians to come!
Not to-day is to justify me and answer what I am for,
But you, a new brood, native, athletic, continental, greater than before known,

Arouse! for you must justify me.
I myself but write one or two indicative words for the future,
I but advance a moment only to wheel and hurry back in the darkness.

I am a man who, sauntering along without fully stopping, turns a casual look upon you and then averts his face,
Leaving it to you to prove and define it,
Expecting the main things from you.

-Walt Whitman