Two Creative Writing Professors Named Guggenheim Fellows

By Tom McLaughlin

Since its inception in 2008, the master of fine arts (MFA) in creative writing at Rutgers University–Camden has served as a launching pad for successful poets, and nonfiction and fiction writers alike.

A testament to the world-class quality of the MFA program, two affiliated Rutgers–Camden faculty members – Patrick Rosal, an associate professor of English, and Gregory Pardlo, an assistant professor of English – have been named 2017 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellows for poetry.

Patrick Rosal. Photo by Margarita Corporan

The highly coveted award has become a gold standard for recognizing individuals who have demonstrated exceptional scholarship or creative ability in the arts.

That makes three Guggenheim Fellows in the MFA program and counting. Paul Lisicky, an associate professor of English at Rutgers–Camden, earned the fellowship for general nonfiction in 2016.

Kris Lindenmeyer, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers–Camden, lauds their achievements, noting that it is stunning, but not surprising, that the two Rutgers–Camden scholars were recognized by the Guggenheim Foundation for their exceptional talents.

“Both Patrick and Gregory are passionate, provocative, and innovative writers, as well as outstanding and generous teachers who add to the outstanding creative atmosphere at the Writers House at Rutgers–Camden,” says Lindenmeyer.

Pardlo, a 1999 graduate of Rutgers–Camden with a bachelor’s degree in English, earned the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for his poem collection Digest (Four Way Books, 2014).

The Brooklyn, N.Y., resident has also previously earned fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York Foundation for the Arts. His first collection, Totem (American Poetry Review, 2007), was selected for the APR Honickman First Book Prize in 2007. Pardlo most recently penned Air Traffic, a memoir in essays forthcoming from Knopf Doubleday.

Gregory Pardlo

The Pulitzer Prize winner acknowledges that, had it not been for a poetry workshop that he took at Rutgers–Camden, he might not be a poet at all.

Born in Philadelphia, Pardlo grew up in nearby Willingboro. As he recalls, he briefly attended classes at Rutgers University–New Brunswick, but was unsure of his future plans. Ten years later, he was working at the jazz club that his family owned in Pennsauken when a friend convinced him to continue his education at Rutgers–Camden. Shortly thereafter, Pardlo enjoyed his first taste of literary success, recalling that he won an undergraduate creative writing prize that “was probably as meaningful to me at the time as the Pulitzer is to me now.”

Rosal is the author of four full-length poetry collections, including his most recent book Brooklyn Antediluvian (Persea, 2016). His earlier work Boneshepherds (Persea, 2011) was named a small press highlight by the National Book Critics Circle and a notable book by the Academy of American Poets. The Philadelphia resident is also the author of My American Kundiman (Persea, 2006), and Uprock Headspin Scramble and Dive (Persea, 2003).

“Even if the accompanying emotion of a poem is sorrow or rage, I want people to feel delighted that some inhibited or unacknowledged image or feeling was revealed to them,” says Rosal. “Even if those images or feelings are difficult – especially if they’re difficult – there is a potential for delight in that revelation.”

A Fulbright Fellow in the Philippines in 2009, Rosal has won, among other honors, the Association of Asian American Studies Book Award, the Global Filipino Literary Award, and the Asian American Writers Workshop Members’ Choice Award. His poems and essays have been published widely in journals and anthologies, including The New York Times, Tin House, New England Review, Poetry, GrantlandThe Breakbeat Poets Anthology, and The Best American Poetry.

Edward Hirsch, president of the Guggenheim Foundation, affirms that this year’s Guggenheim Fellowship recipients – comprising a distinguished group of artists, writers, scholars, and scientists – represent the best of the best.

“Each year since 1925, the Guggenheim Foundation has bet everything on the individual, and we’re thrilled to continue to do so with this wonderfully talented and diverse group,” says Hirsch. “It’s an honor to be able to support these individuals to do the work they were meant to do.”

For more information about the MFA program at Rutgers University–Camden, visit mfa.camden.rutgers.edu.

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