Ocean Vuong. Photo:

Ocean Vuong, an assistant professor in the UMass Masters of Fine Arts Program for Poets and Writers, has been  named a 2019 MacArthur Fellow in the fiction and non-fiction writing category.

Vuong is a poet whose first novel, On Earth We Are Briefly Gorgeous, is currently a bestseller and has been long-listed for the 2019 National Book Award for Fiction.

The MacArthur Fellowship is a $625,000, no-strings-attached award given to extraordinarily talented and creative individuals as an investment in their potential. Commonly called a “Genius Grant,” it uses three criteria for selection: Exceptional creativity, promise for important future advances, and potential for the Fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work.

“The UMass-Amherst community is extraordinarily proud to have Ocean Vuong among us,” said UMass-Amherst Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy. “The MacArthur Fellowship celebrates his emerging status as a gifted writer who is a major voice of his generation and a creative force.”

Vuong becomes the fifth UMass Amherst faculty member to receive a Genius Grant in arts and literature. Past recipients include Max Roach in 1988 for Music Performance and Composition, Marc Shell in 1990 for Literary History and Criticism, John Edgar Wideman in 1993 for Fiction and Non-Fiction Writing, and Nancy Folbre in 1998 for Economics. Additionally, three alumni with Master’s degrees in regional planning have received Genius Grants: Wesley Charles Jacobs, Jr. in 1987, Maria Varela in 1990, and Unita Blackwell in 1992.

Details about this year’s MacArthur Fellows and a history of the program can be found here.

The Fellowship is intended to encourage people of outstanding talent to pursue their own creative, intellectual, and professional inclinations. Recipients may be writers, scientists, artists, social scientists, humanists, teachers, entrepreneurs, or those in other fields, with or without institutional affiliations. They may use their Fellowship to advance their expertise, engage in bold new work, or, if they wish, to change fields or alter the direction of their careers.

Although nominees are reviewed for their achievements, the Fellowship is not a lifetime achievement award, but rather an investment in a person’s originality, insight, and potential. The purpose of the Fellowship is to enable recipients to exercise their own creative instincts for the benefit of human society.

The MacArthur Fellowship is the latest in a string of honors that Vuong, 30, , has received. In 2018, he  won the 2017 T.S. Eliot Prize for Poetry for his debut poetry collection, Night Sky with Exit Wounds. The collection also won the Whiting Award, Thom Gunn Award, and Forward Prize for Best First Collection. Vuong’s writing has appeared  in The Atlantic, The Nation, the New Republic, The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Village Voice, and the American Poetry Review, which awarded him the Stanley Kunitz Prize for Younger Poets. Vuong is currently an artist-in-residence at the Asian/Pacific/American Institute at New York University, working at the Center for Refugee Poetics.

Source: UMass News and Media

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