A young person writes in a journal

Acclaim for creative writing

It's been a year of accolades and acclaim for Emory's creative writing community, with both professors and students garnering some of the nation's top writing honors.

Strengthened by award-winning faculty and emerging student talent, Emory’s Creative Writing Program — which celebrated its 26th anniversary this year — is consistently cited as one of the best programs in the nation for undergraduate creative writing, producing alumni who win acceptance into some of the nation’s highest-ranked MFA programs and attracting outstanding up-and-coming student writers.

This year, Emory faculty, undergraduates, and graduate students have drawn national attention for an array of elite writing recognitions, including:

Creative Writing Program Director Jericho Brown, associate professor of English and creative writing — 2017 Poetry Society of America awards

Two of Brown’s poems earned highest honors in the Poetry Society of America’s 2017 awards. His poem “Ganymede” won the Cecil Hemley Memorial Award, which recognizes a lyric poem that addresses a philosophical or epistemological concern; it comes with a prize of $500. In addition, “As a Human Being” also won the Lyric Poetry Award, which recognizes writing achievement of a lyric poem on any subject; it carries a $500 prize. Brown has consistently earned national recognition for his poetry collections and critical acclaim for his scholarship, including a 2016 Guggenheim Fellowship. Brown stepped into a new role this fall as director of Emory’s Creative Writing Program.

Lucy Wainger, Emory College sophomore — 2017 The Best American Poetry

Wainger’s poem “Scheherazade” was selected for inclusion in 2017’s The Best American Poetry anthology, alongside work from such literary heavyweights as Joyce Carol Oates, Leonard Cohen, Sharon Olds, and Robert Pinsky. The honor, she says, was completely unexpected.

Growing up, her interest in writing took root in an afterschool writing program in her hometown of New York City. Today, she is one of several Emory students publishing poems in magazines that even established writers would consider highly competitive opportunities. Her poems  “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” and “Scheherazade” appeared in the December 2016 edition of PoetryMagazine

Darby Jardeleza — 2017 Sudler Prize in the Arts 

Jardeleza, a creative writing major and Arabic minor from Bluffton, South Carolina, was among the 2017 recipients of the Louis B. Sudler Prize in the Arts. Awarded annually to graduating seniors who’ve demonstrated the highest standard of proficiency in the performing or creative arts, each prize is accompanied by a $6,000 award.

With a commanding and fearless voice, Jardeleza has won praise for a storytelling talent that, to her professors, goes beyond even graduate-level work. She is also cofounder of the Emory Literary Club and the 2016–2017 Stipe Society of Creative Scholars Creative Writing Fellow.

Sumita Chakraborty, Emory PhD candidate — Lilly Poetry Fellowship

Chakraborty, a doctoral candidate in English, was named a recipient of the 2017 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship — one of the most prestigious awards offered to young US poets.

The fellowship, which brings an award of $25,800, is intended to encourage the further study of writing poetry. Chakraborty was among five poets to receive this year’s honor from the Poetry Foundation and Poetry Magazine, which select the winners. This marks the second time an Emory student has received the esteemed poetry fellowship — which identifies emerging major talents — in the past five years. 

A native of Boston, Massachusetts, Chakraborty began her doctoral studies at Emory in 2012 and is on track to graduate in 2018 with a PhD in English and a graduate certificate in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. She was drawn to Emory by the strength of the university’s intellectual community, resources, and academic mentors. “It’s a campus that really thrives on and promotes the study of and engagement with poetry, literature, and the arts,” she says. 

Jiréh Breon Holder — 2016–2018 Emory Playwriting Fellow

One of only a few of its kind, the Emory Department of Theater Studies and Creative Writing Program 2016–2018 Fellowship in Playwriting provides an emerging playwright the opportunity to explore creative pursuits while engaging passionate Emory students and the Atlanta theater community at large.

The current recipient, Jiréh Breon Holder, is no stranger to Atlanta or Emory. A native of Memphis, Tennessee, he took playwriting classes at Emory while earning a BA in drama from Morehouse College. In 2011, Theater Emory became the first professional theater to stage his work. His play Too Heavy for Your Pocket opened off-Broadway at the Roundabout Theatre Company this fall.

The Fellowship of Southern Writers awarded Holder the 2017 Bryan Family Foundation Award for Drama. This fall, he was among four rising artists recognized by the New York Times as “Tomorrow’s Marquee Names, Now in the Making.” 

Known for exploring political themes and everyday life in the South, he comes to Emory as an exciting new voice in American theater. For the next year, Holder will be given an opportunity to refine that voice by creating new works. As a joint appointment, the Playwriting Fellow contributes to both Emory’s Creative Writing and Theater Studies Program.

Annual Report