Last night United States Artists (USA) announced seven writers as 2009 winners of the organization's fifty-thousand-dollar fellowship award, given annually to a total of fifty artists nationwide. The fellows are poets Ai, Brian Turner, and Kevin Young; fiction writers Antonya Nelson, Sapphire—also known for her poetry—and Justin Torres; and graphic novelist Gilbert Hernandez. Playwright Nelo Cruz also received an award.
The recipients were selected from a pool of writers nominated by fellow artists, critics, scholars, and other literary professionals. Nominated writers then submitted applications, and a peer panel chose the winners. This year's panel in literature was comprised of Jeff Chang, Anne García-Romero, Major Jackson, Alan Michael Parker, and Robert Polito.
Garcia-Romero made reference to Federico García Lorca's theory of duende—the power of the unknown that drives the creation of new things—in a write-up about the nominees and recipients of this year's award. "These writers provide us with a stirring collection of texts that reflect the complexity of twenty-first century life in this country," she says. "Infused with duende, these 'newly created things' will also have the potential to change the shape of the way we live."
According to USA, the organization has granted artists ten million dollars since the awards' creation in 2006. A poll of the inaugural winners showed that the majority of the funds were used to develop new projects, finish a project, purchase supplies, or facilitate work-related travel. Fellows also used their grants to volunteer for an arts-related cause or present their work to the public.
In the video below, fellow Brian Turner recites the title poem for his multiple-award-winning debut collection, Here, Bullet (Alice James Books, 2005).