Drew Professor Named New York State Poet

Alicia Ostriker is second state poet from Drew.

September 2018 – A Drew University professor is the new State Poet for New York.

Alicia Ostriker, a poet from New York City who teaches in the Master of Fine Arts in Poetry and Poetry Translation program at Drew’s Caspersen School of Graduate Studies, will represent N.Y. in that capacity for two years. She’s the 11th State Poet and—remarkably—the second from Drew’s MFA program. The first was Jean Valentine, who served from 2008 to 2010.

In announcing the appointment, N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo noted the acclaim Ostriker achieved for her work and its impact on all people, especially New Yorkers. She has earned awards and fellowships from institutions such as the National Endowment of the Arts, Guggenheim Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation and Poetry Society of America. And as State Poet, she’ll receive the New York State Walt Whitman Citation of Merit for Poets.

“It’s an honor that’s thrilling, especially if you look at the list of poets who have held that position before. It’s really an A-list,” said Ostriker, who succeeds Yusef Komunyakaa, a Pulitzer Prize winner. “It’s also a responsibility. So, I have been thinking about projects that I might work on in that role.”

In particular, Ostriker intends to celebrate poets associated with New York.

Sean Nevin, director of Drew’s MFA program, described Ostriker’s recognition as a major accomplishment in the literary world and a much-deserved honor.

“We are so happy for Alicia,” Nevin said. “It is a great distinction in any state, but one can imagine the caliber of poets on a short list for a state like New York that is burgeoning with great writers.”

Ostriker began teaching at Drew in 2009—after retiring from Rutgers University—and became the Distinguished Poet in Residence in 2015. The master’s program brings world-class poets to campus twice a year for a 10-day residency to work one-on-one with students. Other core professors include Michael Waters, Judith Vollmer and Afaa Michael Weaver. Ostriker said she was drawn by the chance to teach different types of students.

“Because most of our students are adults, they have lives and jobs and families. They know who they are, as university students often do not. So that makes them really interesting—in another way—to work with. And they have more life to draw from as poets,” she said. “Plus, this program is intimate and therefore this is a really powerful community of students who don’t ever want to leave!”

Ostriker’s appointment coincides with Pulitzer Prize winner Colson Whitehead becoming N.Y.’s 12th State Author, succeeding Edmund White. Whitehead also is connected to Drew: on Oct. 10, he’ll speak on campus as part of the Drew Forum series. For ticket information, please click here.

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