By Brie Winnega, Daily Staff Reporter
Published January 28, 2014
Associate English Prof. Khaled Mattawa has been elected to the Academy of American Poets Board of Chancellors, the group announced Jan 15.
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Mattawa is the author of four books of poetry and has translated nine books of contemporary Arabic poetry. He is the recipient of numerous other awards, including the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship and the PEN American Center Award for Poetry Translation.
The Academy was established 80 years ago with a mission to support poets and to promote appreciation for poetry across the United States. One of the organization’s ongoing efforts is National Poetry Month, which takes place every April.
Mattawa said although his election was only recently announced by the AAP, he has known about it since December.
“All of our chancellors are well-established in the art of poetry,” said AAP Executive Director Jennifer Benka. “They have published multiple books and they have been recognized by other institutions for the excellence of their art.”
New chancellors are selected by the current Academy Board and serve for a term of six years. Mattawa is now one of 15 Academy Board members.
Benka said responsibilities of chancellors include suggesting ideas and giving feedback for the Academy’s programs, getting involved with projects for National Poetry Month and serving as judges for two of the seven major prizes awarded to poets throughout the country.
Mattawa said he was honored to receive this recognition.
“I feel lucky,” he said. “Whether people think that I deserve this recognition or not, I certainly feel lucky. There’s a lot to feel lucky about in my own life as an individual and as a writer.”
Mattawa, who was born in Libya, said his membership in the AAP, an American institution, is a testament to his ability to remain whole as an individual rather than culturally divided.
“Some of my friends from Libya have been telling me this is some of the best news they’ve heard in a while,” Mattawa said. “So, if only for that, to bring my other country some good news with this honor is a great thing in my life.”
Michael Schoenfeldt, chair of the University’s English Department, said he was thrilled when he heard of Mattawa’s induction.
“His reputation is stunning and growing all the time,” Schoenfeldt said. “In particular as a Libyan intellectual, he is able to use poetry to connect experiences across continents brilliantly.”
Cultural diversity is an important characteristic of the Academy’s Board of Chancellors, Benka said.
“As a national organization, we want to make sure we are being counseled and advised by poets who come from very different places across the country,” Benka said.
Mattawa said he is most looking forward to personally meeting his fellow chancellors, whose works he has known for a long time.
“I am for poetry that tries to make the language new and that tries to make the language accommodate new ideas and new concepts,” Mattawa said. “It’s my desire to let people know that poetry is a place where they can grow as individuals, and they can learn to begin imagining a better world.”