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Creative Writing faculty win NEA poetry fellowships

Date of Release: 02/11/2005

SAN MARCOS — Poets Cyrus Cassells and Kathleen Peirce, members of the creative writing faculty at Texas State University-San Marcos, are among 45 poets nationwide who have won prestigious poetry fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Cassells and Peirce have each been awarded a $20,000 fellowship to pursue work on new collections of poetry. The NEA received almost 1,600 applications for the 45 fellowships that are intended to offer writers general support for their writing endeavors. The entire list of awards is available at http://www.arts.endow.gov.

The award is Cassells�f second fellowship from the NEA. He will use it toward completion of his fifth volume of poetry, The Gospel According to Wild Indigo, about the resilience of slaves in the American South. His 1986 fellowship, also for poetry, enabled him to travel to the former Soviet Union with E.L. Doctorow and other American writers. The Lannan Foundation, which supports the publication and distribution of �gexceptional literary works,�h named Cassells�f fourth volume of poetry, More Than Peace and Cypresses (Copper Canyon Press 2004), a 2004 Lannan Literary Selection. Cassells is also author of Beautiful Signor (Copper Canyon Press 1997), winner of the Lambda Literary Award; Soul Make a Path Through Shouting (Copper Canyon Press 1994), nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and winner of the William Carlos Williams Award; and The Mud Actor (Henry Holt & Co. 1982), a National Poetry Series selection. Cassells is the recipient of a 1995 Pushcart Prize, the Peter I.B. Lavan Younger Poets Award, and fellowships from the Lannan Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation. His poetry will be included in a six-volume collection to be published by Copper Canyon Press with a $55,000 award from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Cassells is also the subject of a 10-page interview in a recent issue of Contemporary Literature (XLIV, 3), in which the author writes: �gCyrus Cassells�f poetry has gained recognition for its sensual beauty, exquisite skill, global range of allusion and spiritual themes.�h

Peirce will use her award in writing a new volume of poetry. Her most recent collection of poems is The Ardors (Ausable Press 2004). About the collection, poet Jean Valentine writes, �gThe Ardors takes us beyond ourselves, beyond our workaday bodies and souls.�h And poet Norman Dubie writes, �gThe arguments in the more formal of these poems are nearly Miltonic.�h Peirce is the author of three previous collections: Mercy (University of Pittsburgh Press 1991), winner of the Associated Writing Programs Prize; Divided Touch, Divided Color (Windhover Press); and The Oval Hour (University of Iowa Press 1999), which won the Iowa Poetry Prize from the University of Iowa Press and the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America. Peirce was inducted in 2004 as a member of the Texas Institute of Letters.

Texas State�fs Master of Fine Arts Program in Creative Writing has been ranked in the top 20 nationally by U.S. News and World Report and recognized by the Virginia-based professional organization Associated Writing Programs and by The New York Times. The program is known for its outreach to school children and to the community through the Katherine Anne Porter Literary Center and through its visiting writers series. The program is also the home of the prestigious Roy F. and Joann Cole Mitte Chair in Creative Writing, held currently by novelist Barry Hanna, winner of the PEN/Malamud Prize for Lifetime Achievement in the Short Story. Other chairholders have included National Book Award-winner Tim O�fBrien, MacArthur Genius Award-winner Leslie Marmon Silko, and Ai, winner of the National Book Award for Poetry.