Western’s Ron Rash serves on NEA fellowship panel

CULLOWHEE – Ron Rash, the Parris Distinguished Professor of Appalachian Studies at Western Carolina University, is among a group of poets from across the nation who recently served on the National Endowment for the Arts panel that selected recipients of the agency’s creative writing fellowships in poetry.

Rash and the other poets on the panel each read approximately 380 anonymous manuscripts, with each panelist selecting his or her top 15 works. The panel then met in Washington, D.C., to select the 45 poets to receive NEA fellowships for 2004-05.

Rash, a poet and novelist who teaches in the English department at Western, is currently winning rave reviews for his second novel, “Saints at the River.” His debut novel, “One Foot in Eden,” won the 2003 Appalachian Writers Association Book of the Year Award and Foreword Magazine’s Gold Medal for Best Literary Novel of 2002.

Rash came to Western last year from the University of South Carolina, where he served as visiting writer in the graduate creative writing program. As Western’s first Parris Professor of Appalachian Cultural Studies, he has helped set up a series of performances, readings and lectures that highlight mountain culture.