Joyelle McSweeney, director of Notre Dame’s creative writing program and poet, was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in recognition of her creative ability in the arts and her potential in future endeavours.
McSweeney, who is also a playwright, novelist, translator, critic and English teacher, was selected as a fellow along with 179 other scientists, scholars and artists from nearly 2,500 applicants. John and Olga Simon Guggenheim established the scholarships in 1925 to “add to the educational, literary, artistic and scientific power of this country”.
“To be honest, I’m still figuring it out,” McSweeney said shortly after learning about the scholarship. “It’s a spectacular show of confidence from the universe.”
Edward Hirsch, president of the Guggenheim Foundation and 1985 Poetry Fellow, said that the work the foundation supports in the collective effort “to better understand the new world in which we find ourselves, where we come from and where we let’s go. ”
McSweeney is in good company: Margaret Atwood, James Baldwin, Ken Burns, Rachel Carson and Zora Neale Hurston are former scholars. The same goes for Pamela Wojcik, a professor in the Department of Film, Television and Theater, who was asked in 2020.
McSweeney is the 19th College of Arts and Humanities faculty member selected for a Guggenheim Fellowship in the past 22 years.
“I am delighted that Joyelle has received one of the most prestigious and competitive scholarships in the world, continuing our tradition of excellence with these awards. This is a strong recognition of the quality of his work and another sign of the growing stature of our creative writing program,” said Sarah Mustillo, IA O’Shaughnessy Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities.
The Guggenheim is the latest major accolade this year for McSweeney, who also recently won a translation award from the Modern Language Association and an award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and had a poem published in the New York TimesMagazine.
In January, the MLA — which promotes the study and teaching of languages and literatures — presented the English professor and three of her collaborators with a prize for their translation of “Yi Sang: Selected Works” from Korean and Japanese into English.
The 17th Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for Translation of a Literary Work of the MLA was the first awarded to a work of Korean literature. Avant-garde poet Kim Hye-kyŏng, who used the pseudonym Yi Sang, was fluent in Korean and Japanese. He wrote in the 1930s in Korea during the Japanese occupation and died in 1937 at age 27 after being imprisoned in Tokyo for crimes of opinion.
McSweeney worked with Jack Jung, visiting assistant professor of English at Davidson College; Sawako Nakayasu, assistant professor of literary arts at Brown University; and Don Mee Choi of Seattle, Washington, to translate poems, essays, and short novels first published in Korean and Japanese, then “subjected to the vagaries of war and neglect.”
McSweeney said it was gratifying that through the translated book, “Yi Sang’s force is alive and moving around the planet and reaching people when they need it.”
“It’s good to be part of a collaborative multinational team that has worked on this; it highlights the flexibility and invention of his works,” she said. “It took four of us, a supergroup of poets and translators. We needed all these minds, brains and artists to come up with his playful and subversive work.
The selection committee said Yi Sang’s writing, which combines fable, fantasy, satire, parody, Dadaism, concrete poetry and quasi-translation, “presents a daunting challenge for translation.” But each member of the translation team has “re-created Yi Sang’s terse, polyglot, self-destructive, dreamlike parables and essays in English. The elegant format and plural translation voices make this book a fitting monument to this intriguing figure.
McSweeney said the effort reminded him that literature is not exclusively about “the finished text as an immutable object that finds its place in the official timeline.”
“It’s quite a process,” she says. “The art world moves outwards and crosses eras. It’s exciting to be part of the hospitality chain.
In March, the The American Academy of Arts and Letters — an honorary society that administers awards, donates artwork to museums, funds musical theater performances and organizes conferences — named McSweeney as the recipient of its Arts and Letters award. Award in Literature for outstanding achievement in all genres. She said she appreciated the academy’s “encouragement to continue” with her writing and recognition of her distinctive work.
Depending on how you count, McSweeney said, his oeuvre includes eight or nine books of poetry, short stories, novels, essays, translations, verse plays, and a book of criticism.
Her previous honors include being named a finalist for the Kingsley Tufts Prize for her double book of poetry, “Toxicon and Arachne”. McSweeney wrote part one in the years before the birth of his third daughter, Arachne, and wrote part two in the spring after Arachne’s brief life and death. In February, NYT Magazine featured McSweeney’s poem “Kingdom” from the collection.
Also in 2021, his poem “Post-NICU Villanelle”, winner of a 2021 Pushcart award, was published in the Iowa Review. She currently co-directs the translation press Action Books and is currently writing poems and a book of poetry essays.
In 2021 and 2014, McSweeney won the Reverend Edmund P. Joyce, CSC Notre Dame Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award “for his profound influence on undergraduate students through sustained exemplary teaching.” Peer and student nominations are part of the selection process.
She said it’s rewarding to empower students and watch them unlock what they love about language. McSweeney structures the class like a party.
“I bring something, the students bring something, and we create something substantial together,” she said.
Originally posted by al.nd.edu on April 14.to