Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Inspired by the MacArthur Grants Awards

Alison Bechdel has won one of the 2014 MacArthur grants!  I have long thought of her as a genius, but how wonderful that she has been recognized this way.

I remember reading her comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For back when you could only find the strips in underground newspapers--the kinds of newspapers that you had to go to Atlanta or D.C. to find.

Can that really be true?  Or am I just trying to sound edgier and cooler than I really was back in the 80's?

I am sure that I read the strips before I read the books.  And I did feel hip and cool for reading them, even if those characters seemed to be living an edgier life than I was living.

Ah, the 80's, when lesbians trying to live a regular life like the rest of the nation was seen as edgy and hip!  Or maybe that says more about the smaller cities in the southern U.S. where I lived and visited in the 1980's than it does about larger history. 

In any case, I am so thrilled for this public recognition of Bechdel's talent!  I have been a fan for many decades, and while she's gotten much more acclaim lately, this award is huge.

There are some poets on the list, which I found here.  Terrance Hayes is a winner, as is Khaled Mattawa.  I have read Hayes, but never heard of Mattawa.

Frankly, the whole list is inspiring--it's amazing to consider all the ways that the human brain works to create something new.

Of all the awards announced throughout the year, the MacArthur Fellowships are the ones that cheer me the most, the one I would most love to win.

Well, that's not true.  I'd most love to win the Nobel, either for peace or for literature.  But to win a MacArthur grant would be a dream come true, and it's one of those grants that seems more likely to be awarded around midlife, unlike the Nobel.

It's good to be inspired this way.  It's time for me to return to my writing.  I've spent too much time immersed in other kinds of writing, e-mails and reports and endless forms.  I'm ready for a poem!

An update:  moments after I wrote this post and moved on to other projects, NPR's Morning Edition ran this story about Amy Clampitt, who "didn't publish her first volume of poetry until she was 63."  I love stories of writers who hit their first achievement when they're older than I am.  I needed this reminder that it's not too late!

And the story itself is wonderful.  Clampitt won a MacArthur Fellowship and bought a house in Lennox, Massachusetts with the money.  And what's become of that house?  The story explains:  "Since 2003, the house Clampitt bought with her MacArthur money has been used to help rising poets by offering six- to 12-month tuition-free residencies."

Yes, the story inspires on all sorts of levels!

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