NEA Celebrates 40 Years of Literary Fellowships
As part of 40th anniversary celebration, NEA catalogues literature fellowships for more than 2,000 novelists, poets, translators
March 9, 2006
Washington, DC - Over the past four decades, many of America's most renowned writers have had their careers launched, enhanced, or sustained by a literature grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. As part of its 40th anniversary celebrations, the NEA has published NEA Literature Fellowships: 40 Years of Supporting American Writers, a comprehensive look at its influential literature program.
The NEA's current Chairman, poet Dana Gioia, knows the writer's life intimately. "Before I assumed my current position, I supported my family for twelve years as a full-time writer. Although primarily a poet, I also reviewed books and music, edited anthologies, gave readings, wrote for radio, and even taught college part-time. I did what it took to make a living - while always trying to guard a little time for poetry. Making one's way as a literary writer in America is hard work. Consequently, I understand only too well the importance of the NEA Literature Fellowship program," writes Gioia in the book's preface.
The book, which contains an historical essay by NEA Senior Literature Specialist Amy Stolls, explains the history of the fellowship program and lists every novelist, short story writer, poet, and translator ever to earn an NEA Literature Fellowship. Among the names on this impressive list are such luminaries of American letters as Alice Walker, Russell Banks, Ernest Gaines, Tobias Wolff, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Annie Dillard, Julia Alvarez, Maxine Kumin, Robert Penn Warren, Eudora Welty, and Ted Kooser.
As this publication illustrates, the NEA has had an outstanding track record of finding and supporting literary talent. For example, since 1990, 46 of the 70 recipients of the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry and Fiction were previous NEA Literature Fellows. Eight of the last 10 U.S. Poet Laureates have been NEA Literature Fellows.
NEA Literature Director David Kipen calls 40 Years of Supporting American Writers "A Baedeker to what's best in American literature over the last four decades. Without early support from the NEA, would Michael Cunningham, Oscar Hijuelos, or Bobbie Ann Mason be flipping burgers? Hard to say, but I'm glad we didn't have to chance it."
As with all NEA Publications, 40 Years of Supporting American Writers is available free of charge and can be ordered or downloaded from the PUBLICATIONS section of the NEA website.
National Endowment for the Arts · an independent federal agency