The Original School of Creative Writing and Thinking, est. 1987

The Writers Studio Ralph Dickey Scholarship

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The Writers Studio is pleased to offer the Ralph Dickey Scholarship to Black aspiring writers. The scholarship is named in honor of Ralph Dickey, African American poet and dear friend of Writers Studio founder/director and Pulitzer Prize winning poet, Philip Schultz, who writes the following about Dickey’s influence on The Writers Studio:

There’s a good reason why we’re calling our new scholarships The Ralph Dickey Scholarships. In many ways, my friend, the poet Ralph Dickey, inspired the idea behind The Writers Studio, the idea that it’s not only possible to turn one’s fear and negativity into inspiration, it’s the essential process behind the making of art. This negativity, or what we call “the shitbird,” was the word Ralph used in a letter he wrote to me in 1968:

“I’ve found that when I write alone in my attic, I’m not alone in my attic at all. There are maybe a half-dozen critics, themselves symbols of others, who perch on my shoulder like little shitbirds whispering instructions in my ears. Ralph Dickey can hardly get a word in edgewise. I’m fighting that now that I’ve recognized it…I’ve been so afraid to be the person I am truly destined to be. I’ve been willing to accept all kinds of substitutes, disguises, camouflages. But that’s not who I am. I am a black man.”

Yes, Ralph was a Black man, possessed of an endearing capacity to agitate, influence and reduce everything to a discrete series of large and small turbulences that left everyone, including himself, and especially me, exhausted and inspired. He wrote beautiful, musical poetry about his being Black and white and so ethereally indecipherable he often felt omnipresent and invisible at the same time. Everyone, especially me, found him brilliant, original, overbearingly modest and insufferably self-conscious to the point of appearing at times to vanish right before our eyes. It’s stunning therefore to realize that I only knew him five years, from when we first met at the University of Iowa’s Writers’ Workshop in 1967 to 1972, when he killed himself, and that these few years would manage to influence and change so much of my life as a writer, teacher and man.

Ralph was so fair skinned as a child his white father believed Ralph was his biological son, and when he discovered that Ralph’s real father was a Black man, Ralph, at the age of eight, was placed in his first of many foster homes, the last being with a music teacher, a Black woman who taught him to play the piano and love music, a passion that later led to poetry. Every artist is on intimate terms with the allures of the abyss, which we all do battle with in our own unique, perplexing ways. But few of us are ever required, as Ralph was, to make it our permanent residence. I‘ve never doubted that this dark emblem of irrelevance and rejection, this shitbird, came to respect the fight he made to overcome it. In this time when systemic racism challenges all of us with a similar struggle for dignity and compassion, it seems only right that we honor those engaged in similar struggles in his name. Here is the title poem from his one book that Michael S. Harper published not long after his death: 

         Leaving Eden
         Named and unnamed and renamed
         armed and unarmed and disarmed
         I have my covenant outside the womb

         in the solitary confinement of my cells 
         The cries of my bones
         like the cries of animals
         follow me out of my mother
         into exile

How to Apply

The Writers Studio is pleased to offer the Ralph Dickey Scholarship to Black aspiring writers. The Writers Studio is a non-degree granting school for creative writing and has supported writers of fiction, poetry, memoir and creative nonfiction for 33 years, using its original method of teaching through a series of ongoing and increasingly challenging classes. The Ralph Dickey Scholarship will be awarded to writers new to The Writers Studio and their full tuition will be covered for beginning and more advanced students who successfully progress through The Writers Studio program.

Classes are open to writers 22 and over and take place online or through video from our locations in New York City, Tucson, San Francisco, Hudson Valley (New York), and Rome, Italy. When the pandemic ends, in-person classes will resume.

Applications are being reviewed. Recipients will be notified on May 3, 2021.

*Applicants must be 22 or older, and new to The Writers Studio. 

Apply Here

The Writers Studio is pleased to offer the Ralph Dickey Scholarship to Black aspiring writers. The scholarship is named in honor of Ralph Dickey, African American poet and dear friend of Writers Studio founder, Philip Schultz. The Ralph Dickey Scholarship will be awarded to writers new to The Writers Studio who are 22 and older. Their full tuition will be covered for beginning and more advanced students who successfully progress through The Writers Studio program. 

Applications are being reviewed. Recipients will be notified on May 3, 2021.

*Applicants must be 22 or older.

In many ways, my friend, the poet Ralph Dickey, inspired the idea behind the Writers Studio, the idea that it’s not only possible to turn one’s fear and negativity into inspiration, it’s the essential process behind the making of art.

PHILIP SCHULTZ, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and founder/director of The Writers Studio

Most people spend their lives developing defenses against their feelings. The Writers Studio has developed a technique to address that. Everyone can learn to write competently and originally about their experiences.”
PHILIP SCHULTZ, Founder and director of the Writers Studio