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Poet for a generation

Acclaimed poet, teacher and translator Khaled Mattawa has been awarded a United States Artist Fellowship for 2010. The unrestricted $50,000 grant – announced Dec. 7 at a celebration at the Lincoln Center in New York City – is one of 52 awards presented this year to visual, design, performing and literary artists from 18 states and Puerto Rico.

Mattawa (photo left) teaches in the Graduate Creative Writing Program at the University of Michigan. He has written four volumes of poems and translated eight books of contemporary Arabic poetry, most notably a translation of the work of renowned Syrian poet Adonis.

Earlier this year, Matawa received a fellowship from the Academy of American Poets. The fellowship, established in 1937, is the oldest of its kind in the United States, and  widely considered as among the most prestigious annual poetry awards. Past recipients have been America’s most popular and influential poets, including Gwendolyn Brooks, E.E. Cummings, Robert Frost, William Carlos Williams, Elizabeth Bishop and Adrienne Rich.

In awarding him a fellowship, the Academy of American Poets called Mattawa “one of the most original, lyrical and intellectually challenging poets of his generation.” His book, “Toqueville,” is cited for daring poetic techniques and wide ranging subject-matter. Poet Marilyn Hacker characterized Mattawa’s poetry as “politically astute, formally daring, gripping the reader with an intelligence that spotlights its sensual, emotional and historical accuracy.”

The most recent award from US Artists places Mattawa in the highest echelon of American contemporary artists. The award, now in its fifth year, spotlights cutting-edge experimenters and traditional practitioners. To date, the national grant-making and advocacy organization has awarded $12.5 million to U.S. artists.

Among Mattawa’s other honors are a Guggenheim fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts translation grant, Alfred Hodder Fellowship from Princeton University, PEN American Center Translation Prize, and three Puschart Prizes.

Born in Benghazi, Libya in 1964, Mattawa immigrated to the U.S. as a teen.  Before teaching at U-M, he attended the University of Tennessee, Indiana University and Duke University.