Rigoberto González

Rigoberto González Wins 2020 Lannan Literary Fellowship for Poetry

Professor Rigoberto González, Director of Rutgers University–Newark’s MFA in Creative Writing Program, has won a prestigious 2020 Lannan Literary Fellowship for Poetry.

Bestowed by the Lannan Foundation since 1989, the Lannan Literary Awards and Fellowships recognize writers who have made significant contributions to English-language literature, with the fellowships providing time and support for writers to continue or complete specific projects, while also recognizing those who show potential for future outstanding work.

González joins a select 2020 class that includes fellowship winners Novuyo Rosa Tshuma (fiction), Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai (fiction), Isabella Hammad (fiction), Hanif Abdurraqib (poetry), and Award winner Carolyn Forché (poetry).

This is the second major award that González has won this year, following on the heels of the 2020 PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry that he received in February.

“When they informed me that I was a recipient I became emotional,” said González. “I realized how few Latinx writers had received this recognition before me, and there's always a moment of guilt and sadness attached to that reality. At the same time, I was honored to be singled out, because I'm not only a creative writer, I'm also a critic and a champion of Latinx letters.”

González will use the fellowship to work on a new volume of poetry, titled, To the Boy Who Was Night: New & Selected Poems, a compilation of work from all five of his previous poetry books plus 40 pages of new poems that will address the Covid-19 pandemic, immigration and middle age (González recently turned 50). He’ll also work on his fourth memoir, titled, Ave María: Abuela in Shadow, Abuela in Light, which will examine his relationship with his grandmother, an Indigenous woman from Mexico who raised González after he was orphaned. He plans to take the 2022–2023 academic year off to go on a promotional tour and to re-energize, leaving the MFA Program in the capable hands of Associate Professor Alice Elliot Dark.

This award amplifies my name and the work that I've done in service to my literary communities—the Latinx, the LGBT and the immigrant.

This new award caps what has been a remarkable run for González. He is the author of 18 books of poetry and prose, including novels, memoirs, young-adult novels and bilingual children’s books, and has accumulated a long list of prestigious honors throughout his career, such as Guggenheim, NEA and USA Rolón fellowships. He was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and is a winner of the American Book Award, The Poetry Center Book Award, the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize, and the Shelley Memorial Award of The Poetry Society of America, among others. In addition to teaching and writing, González serves as critic-at-large with the Los Angeles Times and is a contributing editor for Poets & Writers magazine. He also sits on the boards of three national literary organizations: Zoeglossia – A Community for Writers with Disabilities, the Poetry Society of America, and the Association of Writers and Writing Programs.

González is the third RU-N Professor to receive a Lannan Award or Fellowship in the last five years. Former MFA Professor A. Van Jordan won the 2015 Lannan Award for poetry, while Professor John Keene, who teaches in RU-N’s English department and MFA Creative Writing Program, and is Chair of the African American and African Studies department, won the 2016 Lannan Award for fiction for his critically acclaimed book Counternarratives.

For González, the Lannon Fellowship is meaningful, not just for himself but the communities that helped him grow personally and professionally.

"This award amplifies my name and the work that I've done in service to my literary communities—the Latinx, the LGBT and the immigrant,” said González. “This award also acknowledges that those who came before me, those who mentored me and taught me on the page or in a classroom, have shaped a writer worthy of this prize. The light that shines on me reflects on those who helped me to get here, and that includes teachers, activists and other writers.”

Visit here to learn more about the Lannan Literary Award and Fellowship and to see the 2020 winners.