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U. of I. poetry professor Tyehimba Jess wins Whiting Writers' Award

Andrea Lynn, Humanities Editor


CHAMPAIGN, Ill.— A young poet and professor of poetry at the University of Illinois has won a prestigious literary award.

Tyehimba Jess was one of 10 U.S. writers to win the 2006 Whiting Writers’ Award.

The award, given annually to “emerging writers of exceptional talent and promise,” includes a cash prize of $40,000 to each winner.

Jess, who joined the English department in 2005, won the 2004 National Poetry Series Award for his first book, “leadbelly.”

His fiction and poetry have appeared in “Soulfires: Young Black Men on Love and Violence” (Penguin, 1996); “Slam: The Competitive Art of Performance Poetry” (Manic D Press, 2000); “Bum Rush the Page: A Def Poetry Jam” (Three Rivers Press, 2001); “Beyond the Frontier: African American Poetry for the Twenty-First Century” (Black Classic Press, 2002); “Role Call: A Generational Anthology of Social and Political Black Literature and Art” (Third World Press, 2002); and “Dark Matter 2: Reading the Bones” (Aspect Press, 2004).

He also is the author of a non-fiction book, “African American Pride: Celebrating Our Achievements, Contributions, and Enduring Legacy” (Citadel Press, 2003).

An alumnus of Cave Canem and New York University, Jess received a Literature Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 2004 and was a 2004-2005 Winter Fellow at the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center.

He won the 2001 Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Poetry Award, an Illinois Arts Council Artist Fellowship in Poetry for 2000-2001, and the 2001 Chicago Sun-Times Poetry Award.

He was on the 2000 and 2001 Chicago Green Mill Slam teams.

The 2006 Whiting Award recipients were announced in New York Oct. 25.