UMass Amherst Alumna Wins Creative Writing Awards

AMHERST, Mass. - Natasha Trethewey, a 1995 graduate of the University of Massachusetts master of fine arts program in creative writing, has won three major writing awards and two fellowships during the past year.

In September, Trethewey won the Cave Canem Poetry Prize for her collection "Domestic Work."The prize, which was judged by acclaimed poet Rita Dove, is awarded each year to an African-American poet who has yet to publish a book-length manuscript, and includes publication in the fall of 2000 by Greywolf Press and a cash award of $500. In connection with the prize, Trethewey will give a reading in March with Rita Dove at the Virginia Festival of the Book in Charlottesville, Va.

She also will receive a scholarship to the Cave Canem Writers'' Retreat during the summer, and in April will read with Yusef Komunyakaa and other Cave Canem poets at the Academy of American Poets in New York.

Trethewey also recently received two awards for "Storyville Diary," a long poem about a mixed-race prostitute in turn-of-the-century New Orleans that will appear in her upcoming collection "Bellocq''s Ophelia." In June, "Storyville Diary" won the Grolier Prize, a prestigious annual award from the Grolier Bookstore in Cambridge, Mass., which recognizes poets who have not yet published a book of poems. In October, the poem also won the Margaret Walker Award for Poetry which is jointly sponsored by "Poets & Writers" magazine and "QBR: The Black Book Review." The latter prize was chosen by poet Marilyn Nelson and includes a cash award of $1,000.

In addition to prizes for completed manuscripts, Trethewey has also received two fellowships to help support her while she completes her second collection of poetry. The first, from the National Endowment for the Arts, is for $20,000, and the second, from the Money for Women/Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, is for $1,000.

Trethewey has been published in numerous prestigious literary journals since graduating from UMass, including the Massachusetts Review, Southern Review, and American Poetry Review. In 1996 she was profiled in an interview in "Callaloo" magazine, and the same year she and six other African-American writers from the "The Darkroom Collective" in Cambridge, Mass., were featured in an article in "The New Yorker."

At present, Trethewey is an assistant professor of English at Auburn University in Auburn, Ala.