Poet Laureate Selects 2017 Witter Bynner Fellow, Ray Gonzalez

December 20, 2016

Washington – The 21st Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry at the Library of Congress, Juan Felipe Herrera, has selected poet Ray Gonzalez for the 2017 Witter Bynner Fellowship.

Herrera will introduce a program celebrating Gonzalez at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 21, 2017,in the Mumford Room on the sixth floor of the James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave., S.E., Washington, D.C. 20540.  The event is free and open to the public.  No tickets are needed.

Gonzalez will receive a $10,000 fellowship.  This is the 20th year that the fellowship has been awarded.  The fellowship is made possible by the Witter Bynner Foundation for Poetry.

About his selection, Herrera said, “Ray Gonzalez, a longtime poet, diamond-eyed traveler, observer of our Southwestern landscapes and peoples, is a most worthy writer to receive the Witter Bynner Fellowship.  As a poet, he has covered much ground—not only as a professor and founder of many literary events throughout the nation, but also as a pioneer in experimental poetics; El Paso, Texas histories and narratives; and incessant literary production.  Ray has been at this for over four decades, not to mention his contributions in flash fiction, fiction, non-fiction, and his deep knowledge of American Pop musical culture.  He is most deserving, most talented, and a true treasure for all of us.”

Of his appointment, Gonzalez said, “I am honored to receive this fellowship in a time when American poetry has a large readership and is influencing our culture in many ways.  I thank Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera for his belief in my work and for showing me, over the decades of artistic activism, what community is all about.  I also wish to remember my late teacher and poet, Robert Burlingame, for opening my eyes to poetry in 1973 and changing my life.”

Ray Gonzalez selected for the 2017 Witter Bynner Fellowship. Photo:Paula Keller

Gonzalez, a professor in the MFA Creative Writing Program at The University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, is the author of 15 books of poetry.  They include “Beautiful Wall” (2015), “Cool Auditor: Prose Poems” (2009), “Consideration of the Guitar: New and Selected Poems” (2005),  “Turtle Pictures” (2000), “The Hawk Temple at Tierra Grande” (2002), “Cabato Sentora” (1998), and “The Heat of Arrivals” (1996).

He is also the author of three essay collections, including “The Underground Heart: A Return to a Hidden Landscape” (2002); two short story collections, including “The Ghost of John Wayne” (2001); and the editor of 12 anthologies, most recently “Sudden Fiction Latino: Short-Short Stories from the United States and Latin America” (2010).  He has served as poetry editor of “The Bloomsbury Review” for 35 years and, in 1998, founded “LUNA,” a poetry journal, which received a Fund for Poetry Grant for Excellence in Publishing.

His honors include the PEN/Oakland Josephine Miles Book Award, three Minnesota Book Awards for Poetry, the Carr P. Collins/Texas Institute of Letters Award for Best Book of Non-fiction, the Latino Heritage Award in Literature, the Con Tinta Lifetime Achievement Award in Latino Literature, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Southwest Border Regional Library Association.

The Witter Bynner Fellowship supports the writing of poetry. The fellowship is awarded at the Library of Congress, and each winner participates in reading and recording sessions at the Library as well. Applications are not taken for the fellowships; the Poet Laureate makes the selection.  A full list of previous Witter Bynner fellows can be found here: loc.gov/poetry/prize-fellow/bynner.html.

The Witter Bynner Foundation for Poetry was incorporated in 1972 in New Mexico to provide grant support for programs through non-profit organizations. Witter Bynner was an influential early-20th-century poet and translator of the Chinese Classic “Tao Te Ching,” which he named “The Way of Life According to Laotzu.”  He traveled with D.H. Lawrence and Frieda Lawrence and proposed to Edna St. Vincent Millay (she accepted, but then they changed their minds).  He worked at McClure’s Magazine, where he published A. E. Housman for the first time in the United States, and was one of O. Henry’s early fans.

The Library of Congress Poetry and Literature Center fosters and enhances the public’s appreciation of literature. To this end, the center administers the endowed Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry position, coordinates an annual season of readings, performances, lectures, conferences, and symposia, and sponsors prizes and fellowships for literary writers. For more information, visit loc.gov/poetry/.

The Library of Congress is the world’s largest library, offering access to the creative record of the United States—and extensive materials from around the world—both on site and online. It is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and the home of the U.S. Copyright Office. Explore collections, reference services and other programs and plan a visit at loc.gov, access the official site for U.S. federal legislative information at congress.gov, and register creative works of authorship at copyright.gov.

The Pankake Poetry Series was named in honor of librarian Marcia Pankake, whose love of poetry was demonstrated in the countless readings and poetry events she hosted at the University Libraries until her retirement in 2007.