The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) named The University of Texas at El Paso’s alumnus and faculty member Aldo Amparán as one of its 2021 Literature Fellows in Creative Writing for Poetry.
Amparán, an adjunct professor in the Department of Creative Writing who has taught at UTEP since 2016, was selected among more than 1,600 writers who applied for the 35 NEA fellowships that come with a $25,000 prize.
Amparán is a two-time UTEP graduate who earned his bachelor’s degree in English and American Literature in 2012 and his MFA in creative writing six years later.
John Wiebe, Ph.D., UTEP provost and vice president for academic affairs, lauded Amparán on his latest honor.
“This is indeed an impressive accomplishment that reflects extremely well on you and the University,” Provost Wiebe said in a congratulatory note.
Sasha Pimentel, associate professor of creative writing, said that this prestigious NEA honor marks Amparán among the top U.S. poets. She said that in a field that is deeply competitive, her colleague’s literary rise has been meteoric.
“This is huge,” said Pimentel, who called Amparán’s poetry stunning. “It is the kind of writing that calls forth from our cities with a knowing, and a clarity, that sustains. He understands how deeply power is forged in language, of the cultural markers we make of ‘belonging,’ and Aldo Amparán knows how to make heard and visible the complexities of identity and kinship. His is a language that beckons, reaches and transforms.”
The NEA recognition is the latest accolade for Amparán, a poet, writer and translator who grew up in El Paso and Juárez, Mexico. In 2020, he earned the coveted Alice James Award for poets. It was his first national honor. As a result, his full-length collection of poems, “Brother Sleep,” will be published in 2022 by Alice James Books, one of the country’s top poetry publishers.
He said the NEA prize will give him the economic freedom to continue to edit and promote the publication of “Brother Sleep,” and to focus on other writing projects such as his second poetry manuscript.
“This honor demonstrated a personal growth in my voice – a growth that is heard and valued, and that is something I am immensely grateful for,” Amparán said.
The UTEP faculty member thanked his students and department colleagues, especially Pimentel, his thesis director, for their roles in his success. He said Pimentel, an internationally recognized poet, inspires him to take his language and form beyond his comfort zone. He added that he continues to learn about his craft through his role as a creative writing lecturer.
Amparán’s other honors include a fellowship with CantoMundo, an American literary association that supports Latinx poets and poetry. His work can be seen in such top journals as AGNI, Kenyon Review and Washington Square Review.
Click here to read some of Amparán’s work.