Western English professor wins National Arts fellowship

CULLOWHEE – Mary Adams, associate professor of English at Western Carolina University, is recipient of a poetry fellowship award from the National Endowment for the Arts for the year 2005.

Mary Adams

Mary Adams

Adams, a member of the Western faculty since 1995 who teaches creative and professional writing, is one of only two North Carolina writers to receive the fellowship for 2005.

“One of the best things about getting the fellowship is being recognized by such a distinguished company of poets,” Adams said. “Poetry has a pretty small audience, so lots of good poets languish for want of a little external validation. The NEA is one of the few big awards available to poets at many stages of their careers.”

The agency received 1,590 applications for its Creative Writing Fellowships in Poetry, awarding 45 poetry fellowships of $20,000 each. The Creative Writing Fellowships are part of $21 million in grants announced Thursday, Dec. 2, by the National Endowment for the Arts.

“Through these grants and fellowships, the National Endowment for the Arts is providing critical investments in the American arts,” said Dana Gioia, NEA chairman of the Arts Endowment. “From preserving our cultural heritage through regional folklife festivals, to providing young people with their first visit to live theater, to writing fellowships that allow writers the time to produce their best work, these projects bring arts of the highest quality to communities across the country.”

Literature Fellowships represent the National Endowment for the Arts’ most direct investment in American creativity by encouraging the production of new work and allowing writers the time and means to write or translate, Gioia said. Literature Fellowships give writers national recognition – often for the first time – and invaluable validation of their talent to peers, agents, publishers and presenters around the country, he said.

“It’s just great that Mary has won one of these,” said Kathryn Stripling Byer, former poet-in-residence at Western and a past NEA poetry fellowship recipient. “This is a fiercely competitive grant process and to be selected from the thousands of applicants is a huge validation of one’s work. I myself am not surprised that Mary received one. She richly deserves it, as she is one of the most gifted and technically accomplished poets now writing. So many good poets go through their careers without this sort of recognition. It’s heartening to see a deserving one be recognized.”

Adams’s first book of poems, “Epistles from the Planet Photosynthesis,” was published by UP Florida in 1999.