Bojan Louis, assistant professor of English and American Indian Studies at the University of Arizona, recently received the prestigious Creative Writing Fellowship in Poetry from the National Endowment for the Arts.
"These prestigious $25,000 fellowships are offered only in alternating years to poetry and prose, so you can imagine how competitive they are," said Kate Bernheimer, director of the MFA Program in Creative Writing. "On average, according to the NEA website, around 1,600 applications are received annually with a teeny 3% success rate. What an honor!"
The goal of these fellowships is to encourage the production of new literary work by allowing writers the time and financial means to pursue their craft.
Louis is Diné of the Naakai dine’é, born for the Áshííhí. He is the author of the short-story collection Sinking Bell (Graywolf Press 2022), the poetry collection Currents (BkMk Press 2017), and the nonfiction chapbook Troubleshooting Silence in Arizona (The Guillotine Series 2012).
"I’m stunned and elated to receive a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship," wrote Louis. "It will enable me to stay put, to say no to extra work, and to be more present with my family and creative work, which have become intertwined. Parenthood and sobriety have been the most difficult aspects of my life, even after a lifetime of abuse, trauma, and hardship. Aside from my family and dogs, poetic forms have been my solace. Writing, an act of healing and resistance."
Louis said that his first two books took 10 and 16 years to finish.
"I was always chasing money, opportunity, and extra gigs to make ends meet and to see what I could of the world and maybe find a new place to hide. Exhaustion and burnout became fixed modes for me," Louis wrote. "Now, with the generous gift of the NEA, I will be able to concentrate and dedicate myself more fully to the forms that are driving my poetic practice and complete a second collection of poetry sooner than later."
Louis’ work can also be found in Shapes of Native Nonfiction: Collected Essays by Contemporary Writers, When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through: A Norton Anthology of Native Nations Poetry, Native Voices Anthology, and The Diné Reader: An Anthology of Navajo Literature. His honors include a MacDowell Fellowship and the 2018 American Book Award.
“On behalf of the Department of English, we send Bojan our sincerest congratulations on this award,” said Cristina Ramirez, interim department head. “Bojan and his work propel the department into another level of recognition. We look forward to hearing the poetry he creates under this award.”