Saint Mary's Professor Brenda Hillman Named 2012 Academy of American Poets Fellowship Recipient

Awarded $25,000 for Distinguished Poetic Achievement

Brenda Hillman, the Olivia C. Filippi Professor of Poetry at Saint Mary's and director of the College's MFA Program in Creative Writing, was named a 2012 Academy of American Poets Fellowship recipient.Saint Mary's College of California English Professor Brenda Hillman has been named a 2012 Academy of American Poets Fellowship recipient by the academy’s board of chancellors. Since 1946, the Academy of American Poets has awarded fellowships to American poets for distinguished poetic achievement.

The fellowship, which includes a $25,000 prize, was the first award of its kind in the United States and remains one of the nation's most prestigious poetry honors. Recipients are nominated and elected each year by a majority vote of the academy’s board of chancellors. Previous recipients include poets such as Gwendolyn Brooks, Robert Frost, and Ezra Pound.

Hillman is the author of eight full-length collections from Wesleyan University Press, including Practical Water (2009); Loose Sugar (1997), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; and Bright Existence (1993), a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. She has received awards and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Poetry Society of America, among others. She is currently finishing a series — a tetralogy — of books on the earth's elements; the last volume explores the element of fire.

Hillman said the award was unexpected and she was honored by her selection, "I am thrilled because it's a very special literary award and has been awarded to many poets I so admire." She added that the national award underscores the importance of poetry in American society. "It's an honor to bring the poetry to our community; writing is one of the best things you can do with your time in a culture that so needs the literary arts for its spiritual health."

The Olivia C. Filippi Professor of Poetry at Saint Mary's and director of the College's MFA Program in Creative Writing also said she hopes the award will shine a brighter light on Saint Mary's literature and writing programs. "Many of my poems have been inspired by the life of the mind made possible by teaching at Saint Mary's. Writing and teaching have always gone hand-in-hand for me, and I find the students, faculty, and staff very inspiring."

About Hillman’s poems, Academy of American Poets Chancellor Sharon Olds said: “Linguistically, spatially, politically, emotionally, Brenda Hillman's brilliant poems are some of the most thrilling poems we have. Our I.Q.s and our Heart Q.s rise when we read her. Each line, each poem, each book, extraordinarily fresh and original, is minted alive before our eyes.”

In 2012 the Academy of American Poets awarded nearly $200,000 to poets at various stages of their careers. Hillman and the Academy’s other prize recipients will be honored at the Academy’s awards ceremony as part of the annual Poets Forum at The New School in New York City on October 19, 2012, at 7 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. For more information visit  or email


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