You are here

Passion, Poetry, and a Hefty Prize

Story by
Nancy Joseph

As a UW freshman, Hannah Sanghee Park (BA, English, 2008) took English 283, Beginning Verse Writing, She remembers being "awestruck" by the first poem read in class, by poet James Galvin. "I wanted to have that effect on a reader," she recalls. "It was my first foray into contemporary poetry, and the watershed."

Matthew Nienow and Hannah Sanghee Park

Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellows Matthew Nienow and Hannah Sanghee Park. Media credit: Peter Bonde Becker Nelson and Kynghee Eo

Park has since become an accomplished poet herself, and last month learned that she and fellow alumnus Matthew Nienow (MFA, Creative Writing, 2010) have been selected as two of this year's five 2013 Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowship recipients. The $15,000 fellowship is awarded by the Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, to encourage the further study and writing of poetry. It is open to all U.S. poets between 21 and 31 years of age.

"This award keeps me connected to that larger community elsewhere," says Nienow, a boat builder living in Port Townsend, Washington. "It means I might be doing something right, or at least aiming in a good direction. It reminds me to take myself seriously and it reminds me to be patient. ...At one point I was in a rush to publish my work. ...This award affirms the impulse to slow down and keep my standards high."

Nienow and Park both praise UW faculty who helped them find their voice. Nienow recalls UW Professor Rick Kenney's classes being "the most challenging classes I've ever participated in," adding that Kenney "asked that I push my mind farther than I ever had before." Park, who attended UW creative writing programs in Rome and at Friday Harbor as a UW undergraduate, describes them as "intensive, extensive approaches to writing that instilled in me the craft and discipline necessary for poetry." She credits Kenney and Cody Walker, now at the University of Michigan, as being particularly influential in her growth as a poet.

To sample Nienow's and Park's writing and read their thoughts on the creative process and their UW education, check out our Q&A with each poet:

Hannah Sanghee Park: UW Course Started Poet on Writing Path

Matthew Nienow: Crafting Boats and Poems