I am again serving as the Acting Chair of African American and African Studies, an enjoyable post, and having undertaken this post once, it is a lot easier and smoother the second time around. On of my favorite aspects of it involves planning events for the upcoming year, and thus far we have several events on the schedule, including the visit of the great Jamaican poet and scholar Edward Baugh on October 31 (it's Halloween, yes, but it worked best for his overall travel plans to the US), and next semester, scholar, poet and performer Rosamond S. King on February 4 and the Kùlú Mèlé Dance & Drum Ensemble on February 11, 2015.
My course for the fall is my first graduate fiction workshop at Rutgers-Newark; thus far I have only taught undergraduate and graduate literature, reading and writing, and African American studies courses, so it is exciting to again be working directly with the MFA writing students, who are sharp, talented and hard-working. Each will be writing four stories, so I've geared my eyes up for a lot of reading. Our class discussion focus will be on short-story cycles/novels-in-stories/composite novels, so we're perusing stories, chapters and excerpts by a wide range of authors that include Sherwood Anderson, Sandra Cisneros, J. M. Coetzee, Jennifer Egan, Louise Erdrich, Karl Taro Greenfield, Ayana Mathis, David Mitchell, Gloria Naylor, and Nami Mun, to name just a few. It took me a few years to internalize all the novella reading-and-writing, so perhaps a novel-in-stories will be a possibility in the future, who knows?
Congratulations are in order to so many colleagues and friends on recent awards. I probably will be missing someone, so forgive me in advance.
Congratulations to my Rutgers-Newark colleague Rigoberto González on winning the Academy of American Poets' 2014 Lenore Marshall Prize for his highly praised and belauded collection Unpeopled Eden (Four Way Books, 2013).
Congratulations to my fellow Dark Room Collective member, Tracy K. Smith, on receiving the Academy of American Poets' 2014 Fellowship in poetry, adding her to a distinguished list of major American poets.
Congratulations to fellow CC poet Terrance Hayes on receiving a 2014 John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation "Genius" Fellowship for his acclaimed poetry and future promise.
Congratulations to fellow CC poet Ruth Ellen Kocher on being one of two winners of the 2014 PEN Open Book Award for her collection domina Un/blued (Tupelo Press, 2013); Nina McConaghy also won for her book Cowboys and East Indians (FiveChapters Books).
Congratulations to fellow CC poet Rickey Laurentiis on becoming the newest winner of the Cave Canem Poetry Prize; his collection Boy with Thorn was selected by Terrance and will be published in 2015 by the University of Pittsburgh Press.
and for two awards in which I had a hand:
Congratulations to poet Ed Pavlić, whose powerful manuscript Let's Let That Are Not Yet: Inferno I selected for the 2014 National Poetry Series, to be published in 2015 by Fence Books.
A belated congratulations to fellow CC poet and Chicagoan Ladan Osman, who received this year's Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets from the African Poetry Book Fund. Her beautiful début collection The Kitchen Dweller's Testimony will be published by the University of Nebraska Press and Amalion Press in Senegal.
Congratulations also to poets Fred Moten and Claudia Rankine for making the National Book Award in Poetry long list! I'm sure there'll be many more congratulations for these and other friends soon!