AMHERST – The MacArthur Genius Grant is an extremely prestigious prize that is awarded to a couple dozen people every year. The general gist of the award is that it is meant to honor people who have shown extreme promise and talent in their respective fields and the money given them is meant to be an investment in their next creation or project. Currently, $625,000 is paid to recipients of the MacArthur Genius Grant over the course of five years and it has become quite the harbinger of significant contributions to the world.
In the past, such people as jazz musician Ornette Coleman, writer David Foster Wallace, journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates, and playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda have received the MacArthur Genius Grant. Of course, they have all contributed to the esteemed legacy of the prize.
This year, twenty-six people were named as recipients of the grant, among them a professor at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.
Writer Ocean Vuong was named a 2019 MacArthur Genius Grant recipient. He wrote On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous, a best-seller that has received 2019 National Book Award for Fiction consideration, and Night Sky with Exit Wounds, a collection of poetry that earned him the 2017 T.S. Eliot Prize for Poetry.
With such beautiful work as this, it's no surprise that Vuong was given the prize, but I definitely want to give a shoutout to the fact that Vuong lives in Amherst, Massachusetts and is actually an assistant professor in the master of fine arts program at UMass Amherst! My alma mater.
Also named as 2019 winners were cartoonist Lynda Barry and marine biologist Stacy Jupiter.
In addition to Vuong's award-winning success as a poet and a writer, he has also made appearances on the national stage, including this June turn on Late Night with Seth Meyers, which makes for a very humorous and insightful interview.
I have had the privilege of having Ocean Vuong visit my classroom during my junior year of college to speak with us about our creative writing processes and poetry. He was an inspiring speaker, and it is awesome that he's been recognized for his talent.