Cortney Lamar Charleston

Catfish Heaven Portrait _ square.jpg

Birth Sign:



Harvey, IL




The Basics

Cortney Lamar Charleston is originally from the Chicago suburbs. He completed his undergraduate education at the University of Pennsylvania, earning a BS in Economics from the Wharton School and BA in Urban Studies from the College of Arts & Sciences. While attending Penn, he focused on the intersection of business and government and the physical and sociological construction of cities. Additionally, it was during this time he began writing and performing poetry as a member of The Excelano Project

Charleston's academic background, coupled with his upbringing spent bouncing between Chicago’s South Side and its South and West suburbs undoubtedly influence his written work. Charleston’s poems grapple with race, masculinity, heteronormativity, class, family, faith and how identity is, functionally, a transition zone between all of these competing markers. Said differently, his poetry is a marriage between art and activism, a call for a more involved and empathetic understanding of the diversity of the human experience. This same line of thought frames his philosophy as Poetry Editor at The Rumpus. He also currently serves on the Alice James Books Editorial Board.

Cortney in Venice.jpg


Cortney Lamar Charleston's poems have appeared in a range of publications, including POETRY, The American Poetry ReviewNew England Review, Granta and The Nation. A Pushcart Prize-winning poet, Charleston has received a Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation as well as fellowships from Cave Canem, The Conversation Literary Festival and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. His debut full-length poetry collection, Telepathologies, was selected by D.A. Powell for the 2016 Saturnalia Books Poetry Prize and released in March 2017. His second full-length collection, Doppelgangbanger, will be published in Fall 2020 by Haymarket Books.



2017 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellow

2017 New Jersey State Council on the Arts Fellow

2016 The Conversation Literary Festival Fellow

2015 Cave Canem Foundation Fellow


Prizes & Awards:

2019 Pushcart Prize (XLIII) Winner

2016 Saturnalia Books Poetry Prize Winner 

2-Time Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize Finalist (2017, 2018)

2017 Best of the Net Finalist

2016 New Issues Poetry Prize Finalist

2016 Best of the Net Finalist 

2015 Lena-Miles Wever Todd Poetry Prize Finalist 

2015 Auburn Witness Poetry Prize Finalist 

2016 Discovery/Boston Review Poetry Prize Semi-Finalist

2018 Sandy Crimmins National Poetry Prize Editor's Choice Selection