John Keene has chaired the Department of African American and African Studies since 2014-2015, and is Distinguished Professor of English and African American Studies at Rutgers University-Newark. He also teaches in the Rutgers-Newark MFA in Creative Writing Program. In May 2017, he was awarded the Rutgers Faculty Scholar-Teacher Award, given across all Rutgers' campuses since 2000 to "honor tenured professors who make exceptional connections between their academic research and their teaching."  He was awarded a MacArthur "Genius" Fellowship in October 2018.

He is the author of the novel Annotations (New Directions, 1995); the poetry collection Seismosis (1913 Press, 2006), a collaboration with artist Christopher Stackhouse; the short fiction collection Counternarratives (New Directions, 2015), which received the inaugural 2017 Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses (in the United Kingdom) as well as a 2016 American Book Award, a 2016 Lannan Literary Award for fiction, and a 2018 Windham-Campbell Prize in Fiction, and Punks: New & Selected Poems (The Song Cave, 2021), which received the 2022 Thom Gunn Award in Gay Poetry and a 2022 Lambda Literary Award. Keene's other published work includes GRIND (ITI Press, 2016), an art- text collaboration with photographer Nicholas Muellner; and the poetry chapbook Playland (Seven Kitchens Press, 2016).

He has published his fiction, poetry, essays, and translations in a wide array of journals, and his honors include a 2003 New Jersey State Council on the Arts Fellowship in Poetry, a 2005 Whiting Foundation Award in Fiction and Poetry and a 2008 Fellowship for Distinguished First Poetry Collection from the inaugural Pan-African Literary Forum. Keene's introduction to the first English translation of Brazilian writer Hilda Hilst's novel The Obscene Madame D appeared in 2012 (Nightboat Books/A Bolha Editora), and his translation from the Portuguese of Hilst's novel Letters from a Seducer (Nightboat Books/A Bolha Editora) was published in 2014. His essay "Translating Poetry, Translating Blackness" was featured on the Poetry Foundation's website in 2016, and his essay "Translating Brazil's Marquise de Sade," on Brazilian writer Hilda Hilst, appeared in Essays on Hilda Hilst: Between Brazil and World Literature, edited by Adam Morris and Bruno Carvalho, and published by  Palgrave Macmillan in 2018.

A longtime member of the Dark Room Writers Collective of Cambridge and Boston, and a Graduate Fellow of Cave Canem, Keene has taught at Brown University; Northwestern University, where he served as Director of the undergraduate Creative Writing Program and Acting Co-Director of the MA/MFA in Creative Writing Program; and other institutions. He served on the inaugural juries for the Cave Canem Second Book Prize and the Drinking Gourd Chapbook Poetry Prize, both published by Northwestern University Press. He serves as a fiction and hybrid writing editor at the literary journal Obsidian, as an Advisory Editor for Transition, and as a Contributing Editor for the James Baldwin Review. He also is a member of the planning and organizational committee and the publication jury for the African Poetry Book Series, which includes the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets and which is under the auspices of the University of Nebraska's African Poetry Book Fund and Prairie Schooner.

Since 2002, he has engaged in a durational and collaborative conceptual art project, under the title of "The Emotional Outreach Project" (Field Study Research Group A), in Chicago, Jersey City, and New York City, and has exhibited versions of the Emotional Outreach Project (4.0) at This Red Door, Kunsthalle Galapagos, Brooklyn and (5.0) at This Red Door, REH-Kunst, Berlin. The newest versions of this project, the Emotional Exercises (6.0), were first exhibited at This Red Door in Brooklyn, in January and February 2014. In December 2015, he was Artist-in-Residence at the Ace Hotel New York, and his artwork from that residency was on exhibit at the One Night Only show at the Ace Hotel from January 8-31, 2015.

Recent mentions, reviews, and interviews:

The Nation: "Friends and Strangers: John Keene's Poetry of Others" (2022 review of Punks)

Poetry Foundation: "Come Bless'd, Lost Go" (2022 review of Punks)

The Poetry Project: "On Punks by John Keene" (2022 review of Punks)

Poetry Foundation: "Punks: New and Selected Poems" (2022 review of Punks)

Publishers Weekly: "Punks: New & Selected Poems" (2022 Starred Review of Punks)

New York Times Book Review - "Epic Stories that Expand the Universal Family Plot" (2017 review of Counternarratives)

The Guardian (UK) - "Prize set to to reward 'brave, bold' publishers goes to Fitzcarraldo' [for Counternarratives]

LitHub - "The Most Important Books of the Last Twenty Years" (includes Counternarratives)

TLS: Times Literary Supplement (UK) - "Exceed Every Limit" (2016 review of Counternarratives)

Research Interests: Fiction writing; poetry and poetics; 20th and 21st Century American, African American and African Diasporic literary and cultural studies; LGBTQIA+ and gender studies; Black and global aesthetics; translation and translation studies.

Fiction writing; poetry and poetics; 20th and 21st Century American, African American and African Diasporic, and LGBTQ literary and cultural studies; Black and global aesthetics; translation and translation studies.


AB, Harvard College
MFA, New York University

Courses Taught

Special Topics:  Letras Negras:  Afro-Latin Literature (Fall 2012)

Special Topics: The Black Arts Movement (Spring 2013)

Introduction to African American Studies II (Spring 2013)

Foundations of Literary Study (Fall 2013, Fall 2015)

Comparative Literatures of Africa and the Caribbean: History and Myth in Contemporary African Diasporic Fiction (Spring 2014, 2017)

US LGBTQ Literature Since Stonewall (Fall 2017)

Topics in Literature: Postmodernism: Posthumanism and Transhumanism (Fall 2012)

Writers at Newark II (Spring 2014)

MFA in Fiction Workshop (Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2021, Spring 2022)

Topics in Literature: Postmodernism: Beauty, Ideology, Power (Fall 2016)

Associated Programs

English (Professor); MFA Program in Creative Writing; American Studies Program.


2022, Lambda Literary Award, for Punks

2022 Thom Gunn Award, for Punks

2019 Elected to New York Institute for the Humanities

2019 Harold D. Vursell Prize, American Academy of Arts and Letters

2018, MacArthur Fellowship

2017, Rutgers Faculty Scholar-Teacher Award.

2017, Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses (UK), to Fitzcarraldo Editions, for Counternarratives.

2016, Lannan Literary Award for Fiction, for Counternarratives.

2016, American Book Award for Counternarratives.

2015, Flavorwire's Best Literary Criticism of 2015 for "On Vanessa Place, Gone With the Wind, and the Limit Point of Certain Conceptual Aesthetics."

2014, Artist in Residence, Ace Hotel, New York, December 7, 2014.

2014, "Mannahatta" (short story) selected for Huffington Post's "15 Amazing Works of Fiction You Can Read Under 30 Minutes

2006, E. Leroy Hall Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, Northwestern University.

2005, Fellowship in Fiction and Poetry, Whiting Foundation

2003, Fellowship in Poetry, New Jersey State Council on the Arts.

2000, Agni's John Cheever Short Fiction Prize (the best short story published in 1998-1999), for "An Outtake from the Ideological Origins of the American Revolution."

1999, Award for Contributions to Literature, Fund for Poetry, New York City, December 1999.

1996, University Fellowship, New York University.

1995, New York Times Foundation Fellowship, New York University.

1995, Publishers Weekly "Top 25 Fiction Books of 1995," and "Top 50 Books of 1995" lists, for Annotations.

1995, The Critics’ Choice Award, in The Critics’ Choice 1995-1996, sponsored by San Francisco Review of Books and Today’s First Edition, for Annotations.

1990, Fellowship in Fiction, Artists Foundation of Massachusetts and Massachusetts Cultural Council.


Annotations (New Directions, 1995; editions in Portuguese, French, and Swedish)

Seismosis, with artwork by Christopher Stackhouse (chapbook, Center for Book Arts, 2003; full version, 1913 Press, 2006)

Letters from a Seducer, by Hilda Hilst, translated from the Portuguese (Nightboat Books and A Bolha Editora, 2014)

Counternarratives: Stories and Novellas (New Directions, 2015, 2016; Fitzcarraldo Editions, UK 2016; editions in French, Spanish, Turkish, Swedish, and Greek)

GRIND, with photographs by Nicholas Muellner (ITI Press, 2016)

Playland (Seven Kitchens Press, 2016)

Punks: New & Selected Poems (The Song Cave, 2021)

Essays, fiction, poetry, translations, and reviews published in African American Review, Agni, A Public Space, Aufgabe, Baffler, BOMB, Callaloo, Fence, Frieze, Hambone, Harpers, Indiana Review, Kenyon Review, Mandorla, Ploughshares, TriQuarterly, Vanitas, Vice, Volta/Evening Will Come, Washington Post Book World, and numerous other print and online journals, as well as many anthologies.