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Jericho Brown of USD Awarded National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship


When Professor Jericho Brown, PhD, learned he had been awarded a $25,000 Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, he was more than a little excited.

"I screamed and yelled and jumped in a fit of praise and thanksgiving," he said.

According to the NEA, the Creative Writing Fellowship is designed to "enable recipients to set aside time for writing, research, travel and general career advancement." The agency supports a number of creative disciplines including theater, music and design, and has awarded more than $4 billion to support artistic excellence since it was established by congress in 1965.

Fellowships were granted this year to 42 poets from a pool of over 1,000 eligible applicants. Brown, who was among those exceptional few, will use the award to support his current project.

"The fellowship will provide for time and resources necessary for research that will be the basis of my next book of poetry," Brown said.

Last year, Brown was awarded the prestigious Radcliffe Institute Fellowship at Harvard University. He spent an academic year in residence at Harvard and devoted his creative energy to his forthcoming collection, "The New Testament." According to the Radcliffe Institute, "the manuscript includes poems chronicling the lives of television news anchors who came to popularity in the 1980s and their reporting on the AIDS epidemic."

Brown’s first book, "Please," released in October 2008, was the recipient of an American Book Award and is now in its fourth printing. Poet Mark Doty called it "Fresh, deeply felt, formally adventurous" and "a stunning debut." Terrance Hayes said, "I could never say all I love about this book."

Still, some of Brown’s biggest fans are his students.

"Dr. Brown has been one of the best professors I’ve had," Allyson Hunt ‘11 said. "The workload in his class is quite large, but every moment was worth it. The discussions were particularly insightful and generated a lot of creative thought."

And that’s just what Brown intends. He said his class involves a number of challenging assignments. In addition to a rigorous reading schedule, students are asked to write essays about poems, to write their own poems, and to memorize and recite poems in front of their classmates.

"In every class, I emphasize the relationship between writing well and reading broadly, the relationship between sharpening critical skills and polishing creative skills," Brown said. "I mean for each of my students to leave my class equipped with an understanding for work as traditional and narrative as that of Margaret Atwood and Andrew Hudgins, as avante garde and sophisticated as that of Claudia Rankine and Nick Flynn, and my major intention is to approach students’ poems for their potential place in all that is vast and varied about American poetry."

Brown had simple words of wisdom for undergraduates who would like to pursue creative writing as a profession.

"My advice is that they familiarize themselves with creative writing that they love to read and that they read it over and over again," he said.

- Anne Slagill '11

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