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UM English Professor Included in Poetry and Essay Anthologies

Aimee Nezhukumatathil

A University of Mississippi professor’s poetry and essay have been selected for inclusion in two separate prestigious national publications.

Aimee Nezhukumatathil, professor of English in the Master of Fine Arts program in creative writing, has been selected to the 2018 edition of the “Best American Poetry” anthology series. This is her second time in three years to have been selected for inclusion in the series.

Also, her essay “What Wonder Can Do,” from her forthcoming book of short nature essays, has been named as a notable essay for “Best American Essays 2018.”

“These are collections that I looked to when I was an undergrad to get a taste for what was being hailed as important and interesting work being published from each year,” Nezhukumatathil said. “I’m especially pleased to say for the first time in my listed biography for this anthology that I live and teach in Mississippi, since traditionally many of the poets who get usually get selected are from the East or West Coast.”

Nezhukumatathil said she hopes that her recognitions serve as a reminder of all the acclaimed literary work being produced at the university that continues to engage national conversations about literature.

“I am so thrilled to be part of a dynamic literary community here in Oxford,” she said.

Celebrating 30 years, “Best American Poetry, praised by the Chicago Tribune as “a ‘best’ anthology that really lives up to its title,” collects the most significant poems of the year, this year chosen by Dana Gioia, poet laureate of California.

Nezhukumatathil’s poem “Invitation” originally appeared in Poetry magazine, one of the world’s most prestigious poetry journals, earlier this year.

The author is most deserving of her latest recognitions, said Jay Watson, professor of English and Howry professor of Faulkner Studies.

“Aimee has long been established as one of the most original and resonant poetic voices working in English today,” he said. “Now she’s proven herself just as vital in the realm of creative nonfiction.

“The versatility she brings to her teaching and creative work, along with her commitment to continuing exploration and growth as a writer, make her an ideal model and mentor for our students.”

Due out next year, Nezkuhumatahil’s forthcoming book for Milkweed Editions is a series of essays about the wonders of the unsung plants and animals that are usually viewed as too “weird” or not very well-known, and her reflections on growing up as an Asian-American girl who grew to love and study nature.

“I think one of the great joys of writing essays is the ability to stretch metaphor and music as wide and far as you want without the exuberant tyranny of the line break,” she said. “I very much think in poems in some ways, but my knowledge of plants and animals helps me expand that lyrical way of processing this world with a scientific knowledge to back it up.

“I can’t wait to be finished with it. It’s absolutely a celebration of being present in this complex and scary and gorgeous world.”

Nezhukumatathil has authored four books of poetry, most recently, Oceanic (Copper Canyon, 2018). Her honors include a Pushcart Prize and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. She was the 2016-17 Grisham Writer-in-Residence and is poetry editor of Orion magazine.

For more information about the UM Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program, go to http://mfaenglish.olemiss.edu/.

By Edwin B. Smith

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