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Bennington MFA Faculty Earn Prestigious Honors

Apr 19, 2012

Republished from the Bennington Banner

By Dawson Raspuzzi, Staff Writer

BENNINGTON It has been quite a week for faculty members associated with Bennington College’s Writing Seminars -- one was awarded a Pulitzer Prize and another elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Tracy K. Smith, a Master of Fine Arts poetry faculty member this semester in the college’s low-residency master’s program in creative writing received a Pulitzer Prize for her third published book of poetry, Life on Mars, which was released last year.

Smith, who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., is a full-time poetry instructor at Princeton University and one of the faculty members of Bennington’s Writing Seminars, which gather on campus two times a year for 10-day residencies.

The Pulitzer board praised Life on Mars as "a collection of bold, skillful poems, taking readers into the universe and moving them to an authentic mix of joy and pain."

In addition to recognition, the award comes with a $10,000 prize.

Prior to the Pulitzer, Life on Mars was selected as a New York Times Notable Book. The Times said of the book, "As all the best poetry does, Life on Mars first sends us out into the magnificent chill of the imagination and then returns us to ourselves, both changed and consoled."

Faculty member and director of the Writing Seminars, Sven Birkerts praised Smith’s writing.

"Tracy K. Smith has a natural sense of metaphor, things linking up from micro- to macro-, and she charges her work with a sense of impending discovery," he said. "As a faculty presence at the Bennington Writing Seminars she has been gracious, open, and superbly attuned to her students."

Birkerts was also recognized this week with his election into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in the category of literature. Birkerts was one of 220 new members to join Academy. Others in the new class include Hillary Clinton, Sir Paul McCartney, Clint Eastwood, Neil Simon and others.

The Academy, one of the country’s most prestigious honorary societies, recognizes the world’s most accomplished scholars, scientists, writers, artists, and civic, corporate, and philanthropic leaders.

In addition to his work in Bennington College’s graduate writing program, Birkerts is an essayist and literary critic who has written numerous books including The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age. He also edits the literary journal AGNI at Boston University.