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M.F.A. students named new hosts of Poetry Foundation podcast

Ajanae Dawkins ’22 M.F.A., left, and Brittany Rogers ’22 M.F.A. will take over the Poetry Foundation’s “VS” podcast this fall.

Ajanae Dawkins ’22 M.F.A. and Brittany Rogers ’22 M.F.A. were recently named the new co-hosts of the Poetry Foundation podcast VS, a bi-weekly series where poets confront the ideas that move them.

Both Dawkins and Rogers are Blackburn Fellows currently completing their thesis semester for Randolph’s Master of Fine Arts in creative writing program.

And, by taking over VS, they’re in good company. The previous hosts, who selected Dawkins and Rogers as their successors, are acclaimed, award-winning poets Danez Smith and Franny Choi.

“It would be disingenuous to describe this opportunity as anything less than a dream,” said Dawkins, a poet, performer, and educator based in Ohio.

She and Rogers, a Detroit-based poet and educator, said it’s important to them to continue Smith and Choi’s legacy of inclusivity, accessibility, and friendship.

In the new season, which launches this fall, they’re interested in continuing to prioritize marginalized writers.

“We want to talk to writers about their craft choices and newest works but we also want to talk to them about their lives as literary citizens in community with other writers,” Dawkins said. “We believe both are equally important. Our hope is that as hosts, our interviews would not just challenge our audience toward more rigorous reading and writing when it comes to poetry but that they might leave with a more ethical and care centered literary citizenship.”

In addition to being an M.F.A. candidate at Randolph, Dawkins is a Masters of Divinity candidate at Methodist Theological School of Ohio. She is also the 2022 Duncanson Artist-in-Residence at the Taft Museum, a recipient of fellowships from The Watering Hole and the Pink Door Writing Retreat, and theology editor for TheEcoTheo Review. Her honors include a Tinderbox Poetry Editors Prize and a finalist placement for a Toi Derricotte and Cornelius Eady Chapbook Prize from Cave Canem.

Rogers has work published or forthcoming in Mississippi Review, Vinyl Poetry and Prose, Obsidian: Literature & Arts in the African Diaspora, and Tinderbox Poetry. Her work has been anthologized in The BreakBeat Poets: Black Girl Magic, and her honors include fellowships from The Watering Hole, VONA, Poetry Incubator, and Pink Door Writing Retreat. She is editor-in-chief for Muzzle Magazine and is also co-creator of A Real Poetry Unit, which brings professional development to Chicago and Detroit educators.

“The previous hosts of the VS podcast are two of the most acclaimed young writers in the country, Danez Smith and Franny Choi—both of whom have multiple books and significant awards—so it is an incredible honor for Ajanae and Brittany to be chosen for this gig,” said Gary Dop, dean of graduate studies and innovation and director of Randolph’s M.F.A. program.

“The fact that the Poetry Foundation, which is one of the largest literary foundations in the world, chose them speaks to the quality of their artistry and their ability to engage meaningfully with writers. From my perspective, it’s an easy decision—Brittany and Ajanae are exceptional—they are trustworthy and motivated to write well, care for others, and to effect change. It’s thrilling for the literary world that Brittany and Ajanae are leading VS. I’ll be listening.”

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