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March 9, 2000

Poet Laureate Grants Witter Bynner Fellowships to Poets Naomi Shihab Nye and Joshua Weiner

Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky has granted $10,000 poetry fellowships to poets Naomi Shihab Nye and Joshua Weiner for the year 2000. The awards are from the Witter Bynner Foundation in conjunction with the Library of Congress.

The fellowships are to be used to support the writing of poetry. Only two things are asked of the fellows: that they organize a local poetry reading (in San Antonio, Texas, and in the Evanston, Ill., area respectively) and that they participate in a poetry program at the Library of Congress.

During "Poetry in America: A Library of Congress Bicentennial Celebration" each poet will read in a special April 3 Favorite Poem presentation in the Jefferson Building's Coolidge Auditorium at 8 p.m., along with Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts William Ivey; Ellen McCulloch-Lovell, Deputy Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff to the first lady; Robert Pinsky; and Special Consultants Rita Dove, Louise Glück, and W.S. Merwin. On April 4, the Witter Bynner Fellows will participate in an afternoon session, "Poetry in America Today," at 4:30 p.m. in the Madison Building's Mumford Room. All events are free of charge and open to the public.

Both the local programs and some of the Library events on April 3 and 4 will incorporate Mr. Pinsky's Favorite Poem Project, which calls for Americans, both ordinary and luminary, to read poems by their favorite poets for a video and audio tape archive.

Naomi Shihab Nye was born in St. Louis, Missouri, to a Palestinian father and an American mother. She received her B.A. degree from Trinity University in San Antonio, where she continues to reside. She is the author of Hugging the Jukebox (1982), Red Suitcase (1994), and Fuel (1998). A new collection of her poems, Come with Me, will be published this year.

Joshua Weiner, who received his Ph.D. degree from the University of California at Berkeley, was director of the Writing Program at the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center and now teaches at Northwestern University. He has published poems in many literary journals, and his first book of poetry, The World's Room, will be published in the Phoenix Poets Series at the University of Chicago Press in 2001.

The funding source for the fellowships, the Witter Bynner Foundation for Poetry, was incorporated in 1972 in New Mexico to provide grant support for programs in poetry through nonprofit organizations. Mr. Bynner was an influential early-20th century poet and translator of the Chinese classic the Tao Te Ching, which he named The Way of Life According to Laotzu. He traveled with D.H. and Frieda Lawrence and proposed to Edna St. Vincent Millay (she accepted, but then they changed their minds). He worked at McClure's magazine, where he published A.E. Houseman for the first time in the United States and was one of O. Henry's early fans.

The Witter Bynner Foundation is giving the Library a five-year gift in order to award two or more poets each year, chosen by the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry in conjunction with the Library, and to encourage poets in their work. This is the fellowship's third year: 1998 Witter Bynner Fellows were Carol Muske and Carl Phillips; the 1999 Fellows were David Gewanter, Heather McHugh, and Campbell McGrath.

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PR 00-033
3/9/00
ISSN 0731-3527

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