The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) recently announced that Sasha Pimentel, associate professor from UTEP’s Department of Creative Writing, was among its 35 Creative Writing Fellows for FY 2019.
The award-winning author, poet and educator will receive $25,000 to help with her creative pursuits.
Pimentel, who has worked at The University of Texas at El Paso since 2008, teaches contemporary poetry, poetry writing and creative nonfiction writing. Her research foci are on the poetics of class, gender, migration, ethnicity and immigration.
She said the news shocked her initially. As it sank in, she said she was humbled because she knows all the great work that other U.S. poets are doing. She called the NEA process a marker of a nation that invests in its artists.
“I hadn’t dared dream that I could actually be awarded such a grant,” Pimentel said. “I couldn’t hazard the hope that my own poetry might be heard too, but somehow it has been.”
The native of Manila, Philippines, most recently was the 2018-19 Picador Guest Professor for Literature at the Institute of American Studies at the University of Leipzig in Germany. She was among the 2016 winners of the National Poetry Series for her collection of poetry, “For Want of Water,” and received in 2015 the University of Texas System Board of Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award.
The poet said she was grateful to all her supporters at the department, college, University and community levels, and is glad to be able to work at UTEP.
Pimentel said the grant is an incentive to “double down” while writing her next book of poetry, which she said will be essentially changed because of the grant, to make the book the best she can.
As part of the announcement, Mary Anne Carter, acting NEA chair, said a recent national survey showed that reading poetry is making a comeback. She added that the 2019 fellowships represent the NEA’s encouragement of a wide range of poetic voices and styles.
Denis O’Hearn, Ph.D., dean of the College of Liberal Arts, said the college and the University celebrate Pimentel’s selection.
“We have been hearing a lot about the ‘rearrival’ of poetry,” O’Hearn said. “Frankly, I don’t think it ever went away, and Sasha is testimony to that fact. We look forward to hearing her voice for many years to come.”
The NEA said that their selection process is anonymous and highly competitive. Reviewers went through nearly 1,700 applications and judged them on the artistic excellence of the work sample provided. The fellowships alternate annually between poetry and prose.