Mason Alumnus Receives the Walt Whitman Award for Poetry

Posted: May 14, 2009 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

The Academy of American Poets recently announced that J. Michael Martinez, MFA ’06, has been selected to receive the 2009 Walt Whitman Award.

The award is one of the most prestigious first-book prizes in the country. Not only does the academy arrange to publish the winner’s poetry collection, but it distributes the book to thousands of academy members. The award also includes a $5,000 cash prize and a one-month residency at the Vermont Studio Center, the largest international artists’ and writers’ residency program in the United States.

Martinez received the award for his book-length collection of poems, “Heredities,” which will be published in the spring of 2010 by Louisiana State University Press.

The winning manuscript was chosen by poet, playwright, children’s book author and novelist Juan Felipe Herrera from nearly 1,000 anonymous entries.

According to the Academy of American Poets, Herrera, the Tomás Rivera Endowed Chair in the Department of Creative Writing at the University of California-Riverside, wrote the following about Martinez’s book:

“‘Heredities’ breaks away from four decades of inquiry into cultural identity. Martinez’s exhilarating descent into the unspoken — lit by metaphysical investigations, physiological charts and meta-translations of Hernán Cortés’ accounts of his conquests — gives voice to a dismembered continental body buried long ago. This body, though flayed and fractured, rises and sings. ‘Heredities’ is a mind-devouring collection. This new writer on the block has created a tour-de-force!”

Martinez was born and raised in Greeley, Colo. He received an undergraduate degree from the University of Northern Colorado. His poems have appeared in New American Writing, Five Fingers Review, The Colorado Review and Crab Orchard Review, among others. He has work forthcoming in the anthology “Junta: Avant-Garde Latino/a Writing.”

Martinez won the 2006 Five Fingers Review Poetry Prize and is co-editor and co-founder of Breach Press. Martinez currently lives in Boulder, Colo., and teaches literature, critical theory and cultural studies at the University of Northern Colorado.

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