The MacArthur Foundation announced today that poet Ellen Bryant Voigt, poet and novelist Ben Lerner, and journalist and nonfiction writer Ta-Nehisi Coates are among the recipients of 2015 MacArthur Fellowships. They will each receive $625,000 over the course of five years. The no-strings-attached fellowships, also known as “genius grants,” are awarded annually to “talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction.”
Ellen Bryant Voigt, 72, is the author of eight poetry collections, most recently Headwaters (Norton, 2013), and two books on the writer’s craft, most recently The Art of Syntax: Rhythm of Thought, Rhythm of Song (Graywolf Press, 2009). The MacArthur Foundation states that her poetry “meditates on will and fate and the life cycles of the natural world while exploring the expressive potential of both lyric and narrative elements…. A poet of sustained excellence and emotional depth, Voigt continues to advance American literary culture through her ongoing experimentation with form and technique.” Voigt also started the first low-residency MFA Program at Goddard College in 1976; the program later moved to Warren Wilson College in 1981. Voigt lives in Cabot, Vermont.
Ben Lerner, 36, is the author of two novels, most recently 10:04 (Faber & Faber, 2014), and three poetry collections, most recently Mean Free Path (Copper Canyon Press, 2010). Lerner has also published an art book with Thomas Demand, Blossom (Mack Books, 2015). The MacArthur Foundation says: “Bringing to the novel a poet’s relentless engagement with language and a critic’s analytical incisiveness, Lerner makes seamless shifts between fiction and nonfiction, prose and lyric verse, memoir and cultural criticism, conveying the way in which politics, art, and economics intertwine with everyday experience.” Lerner lives in New York City where he teaches at Brooklyn College.
Ta-Nehisi Coates, 39, is a national correspondent for the Atlantic, and the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle (Penguin, 2008), and the book-length essay Between the World and Me (Penguin, 2015), which was recently longlisted for the National Book Award in nonfiction. “A highly distinctive voice, Coates is emerging as a leading interpreter of American concerns to a new generation of media-savvy audiences and having a profound impact on the discussion of race and racism in this country,” states the MacArthur Foundation. Coates lives in Washington, D.C.
Established in 1970, the Chicago-based MacArthur Foundation has awarded over nine hundred fellowships since its inception, including the twenty-four awarded this year. The grants are given to professionals in a variety of fields, including science, history, visual art, music, journalism, literature, and public service. Recent literature recipients include graphic memoirist Alison Bechdel and poets Terrance Hayes and Khaled Mattawa in 2014; fiction writers Karen Russell and Donald Antrim in 2013; and fiction writers Junot Díaz and Dinaw Mengestu in 2012.
Photos from left to right: Voigt, Lerner, Coates (Credit: John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation)