Jean Valentine and Harryette Mullen Receive Major Poetry Awards

Posted on

Sep 14 2009

New York, September 14—Jean Valentine has been selected as the recipient of the 2009 Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets. The $100,000 prize recognizes outstanding and proven mastery in the art of poetry. Harryette Mullen has been selected as the recipient of the 2009 Academy Fellowship. The Fellowship is awarded to a poet for distinguished poetic achievement and provides a stipend of $25,000. The Academy’s Board of Chancellors, a body of sixteen eminent poets, selects the Wallace Stevens Award and Academy Fellowship recipients.

Of Jean Valentine's work, Academy Chancellor Gerald Stern said:

There would be many ways to describe Jean Valentine's poems.  One of them would be as if to see her in a dream-world, with all the immediacy, the panic, the odd journey that dreams give.  But add to that a great moral vision, infinite skill, and beauty.

Jean Valentine was born in Chicago, earned her B.A. from Radcliffe College, and has lived most of her life in New York City. She is the author of eleven books of poetry including, Little Boat (Wesleyan, 2007), The Cradle of the Real Life (Wesleyan, 2000); Growing Darkness, Growing Light (1997), The River at Wolf (1992), The Messenger (1979), Ordinary Things (1974), Pilgrims (1969) and Dream Barker (1965), for which she won the Yale Younger Poets Award. She has also published a collection of essays, The Lighthouse Keeper: Essays on the Poetry of Eleanor Ross Taylor (Hobart & William Smith, 2001).

Valentine has received a Guggenheim Fellowship and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Bunting Institute, the Rockefeller Foundation, the New York Council for the Arts, and the New York Foundation for the Arts, as well as the Maurice English Prize, the Teasdale Poetry Prize, and the Poetry Society of America's Shelley Memorial Prize in 2000.

About writing poetry, Jean Valentine says:

"I'm always trying to hear the sound of the words, and trying to take out everything that doesn't feel alive. That's my goal: to take out everything that doesn't feel alive. And also to get to a place that has some depth to it. Certainly I'm always working with things that I don't understand—with the unconscious, the invisible. And trying to find a way to translate it."


Harryette Mullen was born in Florence, Alabama, and raised in Fort Worth, Texas. She is the author of Recyclopedia: Trimmings, S*PeRM**K*T, and Muse & Drudge (Graywolf Press, 2006), Sleeping with the Dictionary (University of California Press, 2002), Blues Baby: Early Poems (Bucknell University Press, 2002), and Tree Tall Woman (Energy Earth Communications, 1981).

About Mullen's work, Academy Chancellor Susan Stewart says:

Whether she's chanting a "humble monumental music made of syllables" or wielding a "typhoon made of tomtoms from Tokyo," Harryette Mullen is a magician of words, phrases, and songs.  She has sparked a revolution in poetic diction. No voice in contemporary poetry is quite as original, cosmopolitan, witty, and tragic at once as the one we can find in her six books of poems.

Mullen's honors include artist grants from the Texas Institute of Letters and the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation of New Mexico, the Gertrude Stein Award in Innovative American Poetry, and a Rockefeller Fellowship from the Susan B. Anthony Institute for Women's Studies at the University of Rochester. She teaches African American literature and creative writing in the English Department at the University of California, Los Angeles.

About her poetic intentions, Mullen has said:

"I would assert that I intend the poem to be meaningful: to allow, or suggest, to open up, or insinuate possible meanings, even in those places where the poem drifts between intentional utterance and improvisational wordplay, between comprehensible statements and the pleasures of sound itself."

Jean Valentine and Harryette Mullen will participate in the Poets Forum where they will read from their work at the Poets Awards Ceremony and be part of intimate panel discussions on contemporary poetry. The Poets Forum will be held on October 15-17, New York City, and is presented by the Academy of American Poets. For more information, please visit www.poets.org/poetsforum.

The Board of Chancellors of the Academy of American Poets
The Wallace Stevens Award and Academy Fellowship recipients are nominated and elected by the Academy’s Board of Chancellors. The current Chancellors are Frank Bidart, Victor Hernández Cruz, Rita Dove, Marilyn Hacker, Lyn Hejinian, Edward Hirsch, Sharon Olds, Ron Padgett, Carl Phillips, Robert Pinsky, Kay Ryan, Gary Snyder, Gerald Stern, Susan Stewart, Ellen Bryant Voigt, and C.K. Williams.

About the Wallace Stevens Award
The Wallace Stevens Award is given annually by the Academy of American Poets to recognize outstanding and proven mastery in the art of poetry. Established in 1994, the award carries a stipend of $100,000. The previous recipients are W. S. Merwin, James Tate, Adrienne Rich, Anthony Hecht, A. R. Ammons, Jackson Mac Low, Frank Bidart, John Ashbery, Ruth Stone, Richard Wilbur, Mark Strand, Gerald Stern, Michael Palmer, Charles Simic, and Louise Glück.

About the Academy Fellowship
The Academy of American Poets established its Fellowship in 1937. It was the first significant cash award given annually to an American poet and is given in memory of James Ingram Merrill. Former fellows include Gwendolyn Brooks, E. E. Cummings, Robert Frost, William Carlos Williams, Elizabeth Bishop, Marianne Moore, Robert Hayden, and more recently Lyn Hejinian, Adrienne Rich, Denise Levertov, Jay Wright, Claudia Rankine, and Brigit Pegeen Kelly.

About the Academy of American Poets
The Academy of American Poets is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 1934 to foster appreciation for contemporary poetry and to support American poets at all stages of their careers. For over three generations, the Academy has connected millions of people to great poetry through programs such as National Poetry Month, the largest literary celebration in the world; Poets.org, the most popular site about poetry on the web, presenting a wealth of great poems, audio recordings, poet biographies, essays, and interactive discussions about poetry; the Poetry Audio Archive, capturing the voices of contemporary American poets for generations to come; American Poet, a biannual literary journal; and our annual series of poetry readings and special events. The Academy also awards prizes to accomplished poets at all stages of their careers—from hundreds of student prizes at colleges nationwide to the Wallace Stevens Award for lifetime achievement in the art of poetry. For more information, visit www.poets.org.