Twitter was atwitter among literati this week with the news that a novelist, a short-story writer, and a poet were among the twenty-four 2009 “Genius” Fellows named by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation:
- Edwidge Danticat, a novelist “chronicling the power of human resistance and endurance through moving and insightful depictions of the Haitian immigrant experience”
- Deborah Eisenberg, a short-story writer “crafting distinctive portraits of contemporary American life in tales of striking precision, fluency, and moral depth”
- Heather McHugh, a poet “composing richly layered verse that unabashedly embraces such wordplay as puns, rhymes, and syntactical twists to explore the human condition”
I’m always delighted to stumble upon this story, inevitably on NPR. I once even aspired to write a twenty-five-part poem based on the 2007 class of Fellows.
Naturally, I’m interested in the recipients in my own and related fields. In addition to the writers and poets profiled above, two more Fellows are keeping alive writing-related traditions that might otherwise fade into history.
- Timothy Barret, a papermaker “reinvigorating the art of hand-papermaking and leading the preservation of traditional Western and Japanese techniques and practices”
- Jerry Mitchell, an investigative reporter “ensuring that unsolved murders from the Civil Rights era are finally prosecuted by uncovering largely unknown details of decades-old stories of thwarted justice”
Also inspiring are those working in the arts in general. Check out these artists’ work:
- Lynsey Addario, a photojournalist “creating a powerful visual record of the most pressing conflicts and humanitarian crises of the 21st century”
- Mark Bradford, a mixed-media artist “incorporating ephemera from urban environments into richly textured, abstract compositions that evoke a multitude of metaphors”
- Rackstraw Downes, a painter “rendering minutely detailed landscapes of unexpected vistas that reconsider the intersection between the built and the natural world”
- James Longley, a filmmaker “deepening our understanding of the conflicts in the Middle East through intimate portraits of communities living under extremely challenging conditions”
- Camille Utterback, a digital artist “redefining how viewers experience and interact with art through vibrant, pictorial compositions that are activated by human presence and movement”
But I’m perhaps most fascinated by those working in realms completely foreign to me—economics, engineering, law, math, medicine, and science. Check out just some of these amazing Fellows:
- Rebecca Onie, a health services innovator “building a low-cost, replicable program that melds the aspirations of college students and the needs of health care institutions to address the link between poverty and poor health”
- John A. Rogers, an applied physicist “inventing flexible electronic devices that lay the foundation for a revolution in manufacture of industrial, consumer, and biocompatible technologies”
- Elyn Saks, a mental health lawyer “expanding the options for those suffering from severe mental illness through scholarship, practice, and policy informed by a life story that adds uncommon depth and insight”
- Jill Seaman, an infectious disease physician “adapting the tools of 21st-century medicine to treat infectious diseases endemic to Southern Sudan and other remote, war-torn regions of the world”
- Theodore Zoli, a bridge engineer “making major technological advances to protect transportation infrastructure in the event of natural and man-made disasters”
These people and their work are stories screaming to be told.