‘Not only a brilliant poet, but also a powerful intellectual’

Roger Reeves

Roger Reeves: “You’re in conversation with yourself, and the blank page, and what you’re trying to do on that page.” Photo: Chris Strong

The Researcher of the Year Award recognizes 10 UIC scientists who are advancing knowledge in their fields. The Distinguished Researcher Award honors five researchers with a record of outstanding achievement. The Rising Star Award honors early-career researchers who show promise as future leaders. 


Roger Reeves 
Rising Star 

“Rising star” is a fitting description for Roger Reeves. The young poet’s work has appeared in major publications such as Poetry, Ploughshares and American Poetry Review, to name a few.

This weighty list of publications is rivaled by his honors and awards for literary distinction.

His poem “Kletic of Walt Whitman” was selected in 2009 for Best New Poets, an annual anthology of 50 poems from emerging writers. Since joining UIC in 2011, Reeves has been awarded a 2013 National Endowment for the Arts creative writing grant for outstanding poets and a 2013 Pushcart Prize, a prestigious honor for work published by small literary magazines or small presses around the world.

Reeves, who is interested in diverse topics from folk music and minstrelsy to the emotional and intellectual legacy of lynching, delivers poems that explore the African American experience, politics, personal ordeals and pop culture.

Writing remains his focus.

“At the end of the day, I got the NEA, but I still have to go back to my writing desk,” said Reeves, assistant professor of English, in a 2013 interview with RedEye. “The award doesn’t write poems — I write poems. You’re not in conversation with the awards committee, you’re not in conversation with the money, you’re in conversation with yourself, and the blank page, and what you’re trying to do on that page. And ultimately, the page is blank every morning.”

His first book, King Me (Copper Canyon Press, 2013), was named one of the best books of 2013 by Library Journal and Tin House. It received the 2014 Levis Reading Prize and the Zacharis First Book Award.

As a 2014-15 Hodder Fellow in residence at Princeton University, Reeves is continuing work on his poetry collection, The Last American Minstrel. 

“He is not only a brilliant poet but also a powerful intellectual, someone able to make historical connections that belie his youth but testify to the seriousness of his scholarly as well as his creative interests,” said Walter Benn Michaels, professor and head of English, in nominating Reeves for Researcher of the Year.

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