UIC poet wins prestigious Whiting Award

Roger Reeves, assistant professor of English

Roger Reeves, assistant professor of English, was named a 2015 Whiting Award winner. Photo: Chris Strong (click for larger image)

University of Illinois at Chicago poet Roger Reeves has been named a recipient of the Whiting Award, a prominent creative writing honor that annually recognizes 10 emerging writers in fiction, nonfiction, poetry and drama.

The $50,000 award, which was presented last week during a Whiting Foundation ceremony in New York, is based on “early accomplishment and the promise of great work to come.”

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

Reeves, assistant professor of English, described the Whiting Award honor as “amazing and humbling.”

“It affirms, for me, that I must risk and risk and risk–not to get comfortable,” he said.

The Whiting Award is just the poet’s latest prize for literary distinction.

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 major honor for work published by small literary magazines or small presses around the world.

His first book, “King Me,” 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.

His poem “Kletic of Walt Whitman” was selected in 2009 for “Best New Poets,” an annual anthology of 50 poems from emerging writers.

Last month, he received the UIC Researcher of the Year Rising Star Award, which honors early-career researchers who show promise as future leaders.

Over his career, Reeves’ work has appeared in major publications such as Poetry, Ploughshares and American Poetry Review.

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

Reeves received a master’s degree in creative writing and a doctorate in English from the University of Texas-Austin.

Since 1985, the Whiting Foundation has awarded more than $6 million to 300 hundred writers and poets. Whiting winners have gone on to win other notable awards and fellowships, including the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Obie Award, and MacArthur, Guggenheim and Lannan fellowships.

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