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  April 30, 2001

Marilyn Nelson Lands Guggenheim Fellowship

Marilyn Nelson, a professor of English, has received a Guggenheim Fellowship.

The highly regarded fellowships are awarded by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation "to further the development of scholars and artists by assisting them to engage in any field of knowledge and creation in any of the arts, under the freest possible conditions and irrespective of race, color, or creed," according to the Foundation's website.

The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation was established in 1925 by U.S. Sen. Simon Guggenheim and his wife in memory of a son who died in 1922.

The fellowships are considered among the most distinguished available.

"For poets, it's the pinnacle of fellowships you can apply for," says Nelson. "This is as high as I can go by my own willpower. Most of the other distinguished fellowships available to poets are decided by secret ballots; they cannot be applied for."

Nelson requested and received a $35,000 fellowship. She will use the fellowship to work on her poetry.

"I have a new book of poems that I'm going to be developing," she says. "The project will be a kind of African-American 'take' on Chaucer's Canterbury Tales."

The fellowships are awarded annually through two competitions, one open to U.S. and Canadian citizens and permanent residents, and the other open to citizens and permanent residents of Latin America and the Caribbean. A committee chooses the fellows, who must have already demonstrated exceptional creative ability in the arts or productive scholarship. Appointments are made for six months to a year.

This year, the Foundation received more than 2,700 applications for fellowships. The selection committee chose 183 U.S. and Canadian Fellows, who will receive a total of more than $6.5 million.

Nelson plans to postpone the fellowship and take it from June 2002 to June 2003.

Nelson is the author of six books of poetry. Most recently, she wrote Carver: A Life in Poems. The book tells the story of African-American botanist and inventor George Washington Carver in verse.

She has received two Pushcart Prizes, two creative writing fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, and two individual artist grants from the Connecticut Commission for the Arts and the 1990 Connecticut Arts Awards. Her book The Homeplace was a finalist for the 1991 National Book Award and won the 1992 Annisfield-Wolf Award. Another book, The Fields of Praise, was a finalist for the 1997 National Book Award, the PEN Winship Award and the Lenore Marshall Prize, and won the 1998 Poets' Prize.

Allison Thompson

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