Dr. Michael Waters, an English professor, is amongst 173 artists and scholars selected from over 3,000 applicants for the prestigious 2017 Guggenheim Fellowship. Waters was awarded $50,000 for his longstanding poetic experience from the yearlong Fellowship that begins in January 2018.
Fellows are selected from the United States and Canada for demonstrating exceptional skill in productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts, according to gf.org.
Waters explained that the award was based on the quality of his past work, and his plans for future work. He said, “In my application I said that I would continue to write poems that would connect the old world in Eastern Europe to the new world. An example of that would be a poem about a monk at monastery blessing the engine of new car.”
“I thought that it was something I would have 40 years ago when I didn’t deserve it. Now that it has come I am just very happy for the acknowledgement,” said Waters.
University President Grey Dimenna, applauds Waters for his newfound success. “Guggenheim Fellowships are one of academia’s highest honors, and we are all proud that Dr. Waters joins the ranks of the gifted scholars, writers, and artists who have received the award in its 92-year history,” Dimenna said.
“His recognition by a panel of former Guggenheim fellows following a rigorous selection process underscores our commitment to faculty who are leaders in their field, and Dr. Waters’ students are certainly the beneficiaries,” Dimenna continued.
“I will use the money during that year to travel and write poems for my next book of poetry,” said Waters. “However, the award does not mean that my time at the University will be impacted.” As of now, Waters is unsure if he will take time off from teaching at the University.
Dr. Susan Goulding, Chair of the Department of English, said, “The Department of English is very proud of the recognition Dr. Waters has received in being named a Guggenheim Fellow. This is an extraordinary accomplishment, earned through a highly competitive process. It is clearly an award of distinction, and we congratulate Dr. Waters on this honor.”
According to Waters, the Fellowship came from practicing his craft since he was a teenager. “During my sophomore year of college I knew that that was what I would be, a poet. However, at that time I didn’t know that I would become a university professor and teach poetry writing, but that’s how it turned out.
Waters first major break occurred when he was still a student. “When I was a senior in college I spent the year abroad in England. I was a winner in the 1971 National Poetry Competition. It was a monetary award, and was allowed to read my poetry at the Poetry Society in London,” he said. “This led to the publication of my first collection of poems in England in 1972. I was 22 at the time, and I have been writing ever since.”
Waters latest book of poems, “Celestial Joyride,” was published in the U.S. in 2016. Last month it was published in England. He traveled to England for ten days and gave readings in 4 different cities to launch his book. He said, “The poems [in Celestial Joyride] are set in Romania, and the last section has to do with visiting Romania and the gypsies that live there.”
Waters exclaimed that he has a new book of poems titled, “Dean of Discipline,” to be released in 2018, by the University of Pittsburgh Press. “Metaphorically it (“Dean of Discipline”) refers to whatever it is that drives us to the next thing,” he said. “The poems remind us to not stay in our comfort zones, and that just when we think that we know all we need to know, we should know that there is still more to learn. It reminds us to stay curious about the world.”
Waters would encourage aspiring writers to read and write voraciously. He said, “What writers do is write. Put a lot of words down, and keep doing it, and do it in conjunction with reading other poets, prose writers, and fiction.”
All in all, Waters is appreciative; for his award, and his standing at the University. “I am grateful for my association with Monmouth University which has been so supportive in terms of my creative work,” he said.
PHOTO COURTESY of Annie Kim