Literary Arts | National Foundation for the Arts

The literary arts inspire, enrich, educate and entertain. They remind us that there is beauty and joy in language, that others have ideas to pay attention to, that in our struggles we are not alone. By helping writers and translators create new work and connect with audiences through publishers and other literary organizations and programs, the National Endowment for the Arts celebrates the literary arts as an essential reflection of the rich diversity of voices in our country.

Since the agency’s beginnings in 1965, the Arts Endowment has awarded more than $125 million in direct grants to nonprofit literary arts organizations and more than $57 million to individual writers.

In addition to grants to organizations and scholarships to writers, the National Endowment for the Arts also engages the public with the literary arts through its initiatives Poetry Out Loud, a national poetry recitation competition for high school students, and NEA Big Read, innovative community readings. around a single book, and its participation in the annual National Book Festival.

Literature scholarships

The National Endowment for the Arts awards Literature Fellowships in Creative Writing and Translation each year. These fellowships represent the agency’s most direct investment in American creativity. The purpose of the fellowship program is to encourage the production of new work and to give writers the time and means to write. Many recipients have gone on to receive the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and Fiction. Most received their scholarship before any major national award, usually at least a decade earlier.

Literature Fellowships are the only competitive, non-nominated awards the National Endowment for the Arts gives to individual artists. See a full list of all scholarships that the agency gave.

Creative Writing Fellowships

Creative Writing Fellowships of $25,000 are awarded alternately in prose (fiction and creative non-fiction) and poetry, giving recipients the time and space to create, edit, conduct research and connect with the readers. The program is arguably the most egalitarian grantmaking program in its field: applications are free and open to the public; Fellows are selected through an anonymous review process in which the sole criterion is artistic excellence; and the jury is diverse and varies from year to year. The Arts Endowment has awarded more than 3,600 creative writing grants, resulting in many of the most acclaimed novels in contemporary literature: Jeffrey Eugenides’s middlesexby Oscar Hijuelos The Mambo Kings play love songsby Alice Walker The purple colorby William Kennedy Ironweedand Bobbie Ann Mason In the country.

You can meet some of the fellows who has received creative writing awards from 2001 to the present.

Translation scholarships

Translation grants ranging from $10,000 to $20,000 are awarded to literary translators, giving recipients the time and space to create English-language interpretations of the world’s best literature, making them accessible to American audiences. Since 1981, the Arts Endowment has awarded 550 grants to 487 translators, with translations representing 78 languages ​​and 88 countries, such as that of Roberto Bolaño 2666translated by Natasha Wimmer, and Nobel Laureate Olga Tokarczuk Flightstranslated by Jennifer Croft.

You can meet some of the fellows who have received translation awards from 2011 to present.

And check out the Arts Endowment post The Art of Empathy: Celebration Literature in Translation containing 19 thought-provoking essays by award-winning translators and editors about the art of translation and its ability to help us understand other cultures and ways of thinking.


poetry out loud

A partnership between the National Endowment for the Arts, the Poetry Foundation, and state arts agencies, Poetry Out Loud is a nationwide arts education program that encourages the study of great poetry. Since the program began in 2005, more than 4 million students and 65,000 teachers from 16,000 schools across the country have participated in Poetry Out Loud.

A new research report, Line by Line: Transforming Student Lives and Learning with the Art of Poetry, presents the results of an evaluation of Poetry Out Loud that involved collecting data from ten sample schools assessing the impact of the program on poetry appreciation and engagement, social and emotional development, and school performance. Among the discoveries:

  • Participating POL students were 1.7 times more likely to have 4-year college or higher education aspirations than non-participants, even after the researchers controlled for other factors.
  • POL students were 1.5 times more likely than non-POL participants to engage in community service and volunteering, even after the researchers controlled for other factors.
  • POL gave students the opportunity to grapple with their positive and negative feelings towards poetry. Through multiple modes of engagement, students learned a wide variety of ways to connect with poems and with each other.

NEA Great Read

The National Endowment for the Arts Big Read, a partnership with Arts Midwest, expands our understanding of our world, our communities, and ourselves through the joy of sharing a good book. Featuring a diverse range of titles that reflect many different voices and perspectives, the NEA Big Read aims to inspire conversation and discovery.

Studies show that reading for pleasure reduces stress, increases empathy, improves student test scores, slows the onset of dementia, and makes us more active and aware citizens. Book clubs and community book programs extend these benefits by creating opportunities to explore issues that affect our lives together. Wrote one NEA Big Read attendee, echoing the sentiments of many other attendees across the country, “the book taught us to talk to each other and trust each other so that we can finally tackle tough, immediate issues.”

Since 2006, the National Endowment for the Arts has funded more than 1,600 NEA Big Read programs, with activities reaching every congressional district nationwide. Over the past 14 years, grantees have mobilized more than $50 million in local funding to support their NEA Big Read programs. More than 5.7 million Americans have attended a NEA Big Read event, approximately 91,000 volunteers have participated locally, and more than 39,000 community organizations have partnered to make NEA Big Read activities possible.

national book day

Every year since 2001, the National Endowment for the Arts has participated in the National Book Festival hosted by the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. First on the grounds of the Library of Congress, then on the National Mall before moving to the Washington Convention Center, the festival brings together hundreds of thousands of book lovers to hear authors read their work, participate in discussions, sign books, etc. It is one of the most important literary events in the country. The Arts Endowment has sponsored a Poetry and Prose Stage each year to bring attention to some of the nation’s top literary writers, many of whom are National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellows.

In 2020, the festival was held virtually due to the pandemic. The Arts Endowment Poetry & Prose Stage featured literature fellows such as Tracy K. Smith, Sandra Cisneros, Robert Pinsky, Rita Dove, Joy Harjo, Mark Doty, Danez Smith, Elizabeth Tallent, and Juan Felipe Herrera, as well as a segment on the agency’s Poetry Out Loud program.

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