The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation recently announced their 2015 class of grantees. These so-called "genius grants" are unique in many ways, notably that there is no application process and the prize money ($625,000 over five years) is given with no strings attached to help support the grantee and encourage them to explore their area of interest without financial risks. This year, two poets - 72-year old Ellen Bryant Voigt of Vermont, and 36-year old Ben Lerner of New York - were selected as grantees. Voigt's recent work includes Headwaters (2013), Messenger: New and Selected Poems 1976-2006, and Shadow of Heaven (2002). Lerner's work includes Mean Free Path (2010); Angle of Yaw (2006), which was a finalist for the National Book Award; and Mean Free Path (2010). His sonnet sequence, The Lichtenberg Figures (2004), won the Hayden Carruth Award, was chosen by Library Journal as one of the year’s 12 best poetry book.
Students' conventional wisdom may suggest poetry is old, inaccessible, or boring but introducing them to these two "genius" poets (and their fellow class of grantees, perhaps) may just get a new conversation started!
|2015 MacArthur "Genius" Award Recipients and poets Ellen Bryan Voigt and Ben Lerner|