English Professor Rowan Ricardo Phillips Receives Whiting Writers’ Award

© Sue Kwon

Rowan Ricardo Phillips, an associate professor in Stony Brook University’s Department of English and director of the Poetry Center, was one of 10 emerging authors, poets and playwrights to win the $50,000 Whiting Writers’ Award for 2013.

Phillips won the award for his collection of poems titled The Ground (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012). The goal of the award, sponsored by the Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation since 1985, is to support writers early in their careers.

“I feel thrilled, overwhelmed and extremely motivated,” said Phillips. “Who wakes up in the morning thinking such news is on its way? But this isn’t the culmination of a dream for me — rather, it’s the beginning of one,” he said.

Phillips joins the ranks of other previous Whiting Writers’ Award winners, many of whom have gone on to stellar careers, such as poet Mark Doty (1994), novelist Jonathan Franzen (1988) and playwright Tony Kushner (1990), to name a few.

“Rowan is a popular teacher and very committed to popularizing truthful poetry in the University and community,” said Department of English Chair Eugene Hammond. “I enjoy reading and rereading every poem in Rowan’s The Ground.”

Phillips, who was was born and raised in New York City, received his doctorate in English Literature from Brown University in 2003. He is the author of a book of criticism, When Blackness Rhymes with Blackness (Dalkey Archive Press, 2012), and the translator of Salvador Espriu’s classic Catalan collection of short stories, Ariadne in the Grotesque Labyrinth (Dalkey Archive Press, 2012).

He is winner of the 2013 PEN/Joyce Osterwell Award for Poetry, 2013 Great Lakes Colleges Association New Writer Award in Poetry, a finalist for the 2012 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Poetry and a finalist for the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work in Poetry.

It was on the same evening that Phillips received the Whiting Award that he also received the PEN Award, receiving $5,000 for The Ground. As luck would have it, both award ceremonies were held a few blocks away from each other in New York City.

“The goal is to carry any award you win with distinction,” he said.

And what could be more distinctive than a time-juggling, award-winning poet?

One who continues to distinguish “himself or herself through even better writing,” he said. “I like to think that I’m on my way.”

— Susan Tito

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