February 8, 2005 2005 Witter Bynner Fellows Martin Walls and Claudia Emerson To Read on Feb. 24

Press Contact: Donna Urschel, (202) 707-1639
Public Contact: Jennifer Rutland, (202) 707-5394/5

Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry Ted Kooser has chosen Martin Walls and Claudia Emerson as the 2005 Witter Bynner Fellows in Poetry. A reading of poetry by Walls and Emerson on Feb. 24 will mark their awards. They will each receive $10,000 fellowships, which are granted by the Witter Bynner Foundation in conjunction with the Library of Congress.

The reading will be at the Library of Congress at 6:45 p.m., on Thursday, Feb. 24, in the Library’s Montpelier Room, on the sixth floor of the James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C. Kooser will introduce Walls and Emerson. Tickets are not required.

The fellowships are to be used to support the writing of poetry. Only two things are asked of the fellows: that they organize a local poetry reading (this year, in New York for Walls and in Virginia for Emerson) and that they participate in a poetry reading at the Library of Congress.

Claudia Emerson’s poems have appeared in the literary journals Poetry, The Southern Review, Shenandoah, TriQuarterly, Crazyhorse, New England Review and others. Her poetry collections “Pharaoh, Pharaoh” (1997) and “Pinion, an Elegy” (2002) were published as part of Louisiana State University Press’s signature series, Southern Messenger Poets, edited by Dave Smith; “Late Wife” (forthcoming) is also part of the series. Emerson has been awarded individual artist’s fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Virginia Commission for the Arts. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia and her master of fine arts degree from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where she was poetry editor for The Greensboro Review. She is associate professor of English at Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, VA.

Martin Walls was born in Brighton, England, and grew up in its sister town, Hove. He was educated at Cardinal Newman School, where he first studied poetry seriously, and the University of East Anglia, in Norwich, where he earned a degree in American and English literature. He spent his junior year at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn. Walls holds a master of fine arts degree from Purdue University, where he was poetry editor of Sycamore Review. He has taught at Purdue; Ball State University; Onandaga Community College in Syracuse, N.Y.; and at Syracuse University. As a journalist, he was managing editor at Eagle Newspapers; he is currently assistant editor of Making Music, a magazine for music-making hobbyists, and a senior writer for International Musician, the journal of the American Federation of Musicians. Walls is the author of two books of poems: forthcoming from March Street Press is “Commonwealth,” the follow-up to “Small Human Detail in Care of National Trust,” published in 2000 by New Issues Press.

The funding source for these fellowships, the Witter Bynner Foundation for Poetry, was incorporated in 1972 in New Mexico to provide grant support for programs in poetry through nonprofit organizations. Bynner was an influential early 20th century poet and translator of the Chinese classic the “Tao Te Ching,” which he named “The Way of Life According to Laotzu.” He traveled with D.H. and Frieda Lawrence and proposed to Edna St. Vincent Millay (she accepted, but then they changed their minds). He worked at McClure’s magazine, where he published A.E. Houseman for the first time in the United States and was one of O. Henry’s early fans.

This is the fellowship’s eighth year. Previous fellows were: Carol Muske and Carl Phillips (1998); David Gewanter, Heather McHugh, and Campbell McGrath (1999); and Naomi Shihab Nye and Joshua Weiner (2000)--all appointed by Robert Pinsky—Tory Dent and Nick Flynn (2001), appointed by Stanley Kunitz; George Bilgere and Katia Kapovich (2002) and Major Jackson and Rebecca Wee (2003), appointed by Billy Collins; and Dana Levin and Spencer Reece (2004), appointed by Louise Glück.

The Poetry and Literature Center administers the annual poetry and literature reading series at the Library, sponsored since 1951 by the Library’s Gertrude Clarke Whittall Poetry and Literature Fund, and is the home of the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry, a position which has existed since 1936. The Poet Laureate suggests authors to read in the literary series and plans special literary events during the reading season. For more information about the Library’s Poetry and Literature Center, the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry and related events, visit the Web site at www.loc.gov/poetry/.


PR 05-025
ISSN 0731-3527