where the writers are

Cave Canem

A favorite of Red Room authors Evie Shockley and Sherry Quan Lee.

President and Co-founder: Toi Derricotte 

Cave Canem

Executive Director: Alison Meyers

Year founded: 1996

Mission: Cave Canem is a home for the many voices of African American poetry and is committed to cultivating the artistic and professional growth of African American poets.


  • Grown from a gathering of twenty-six poets to an influential movement with a renowned faculty and high-achieving national fellowship of over three hundred
  • Put on an annual writing retreat at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg
  • In 2009, served a direct audience of more than 4,400 with programs that in past years have included:
    • Two book prizes with prestigious presses;
    • Workshops in New York City;
    • Legacy Conversations with such poets and scholars as Lucille Clifton, Rita Dove, Arnold Rampersad, and Derek Walcott;
    • A Poets on Craft series;
    • Nationally based readings and panels; and
    • The publication of two anthologies, Gathering Ground: A Reader Celebrating Cave Canem's First Decade (University of Michigan Press, 2006) and The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South (University of Georgia Press, 2007)

Cave Canem banner







Profile: Toi Derricotte and Cornelius Eady founded Cave Canem with the intuition that African American poets would benefit from having a place of their own in the literary landscape. While vacationing in Pompeii, they found a fitting symbol for the safe space they planned to create-the mosaic of a dog guarding the entry to the House of the Tragic Poet, with the inscription, "Cave Canem" (Beware of the Dog).

Over the past fourteen years, that intuition has become a conviction. In Cave Canem, emerging poets find sustenance, a safe space to take artistic chances.

To get more involved or make a donation, please visit the Support Cane Cavem page.

Huntington W. Sharp, SeniorEditor, Red Room

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