English department faculty members win prestigious arts fellowships
Associate English professor Jena Osman was among the 2006 grantees of the Pew Fellowship for the Arts, which awards $50,000 to 12 Philadelphia-area artists each year. The fellowships, established by Pew Charitable Trust and administered by the University of the Arts, provide funding for artists to pursue creative development.
This year, more than 250 poets, sculptors and performance artists were considered for the grant.
Osman, who also directs the University’s Creative Writing program, plans to use the funds next year to focus on her poetry writing.
“What’s great about the Pew Fellowship is that there are no limitations as to what you can do,” Osman said. “The grant simply gives you time to make art, and time is a rare commodity.”
Osman said she enjoys studying non-literary language in a poetic context and uses her work to call attention to the aspects of everyday language that we tend to overlook.
One of her previous projects used text from Supreme Court transcripts to examine how something as complex as legal decision-making can be based on something as simple as the interpretation of grammar rules.
With the help of the Pew fellowship, Osman hopes to complete another project, called "Public Figures," which interweaves Philadelphia history and current events in both essay and poetry forms.
The project analyzes local monuments that depict people bearing weapons, and relate these images to the current media images of soldiers at war. People generally pass by these sculptures without thought, Osman said.
“We’ve become removed from our history, and I’m trying to find out why,” she said. “I think it’s a problem that we don’t notice and we don’t want to know.”
Osman has published three books of poetry as well as four chapbooks, and her work has appeared in literary magazines and anthologies internationally, and was included in The Best American Poetry of 2002.
She also co-edits the interdisciplinary arts magazine Chain and serves as the faculty advisor for Hyphen, the undergraduate literary magazine.
Previously, Osman has received grants for her poetry through the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and the Fund for Poetry. More information about Osman is available at www.temple.edu/creativewriting/faculty/osman/index.htm.
English professor Rachel Blau DuPlessis, herself a 2002 Pew Fellow, received a 2007 Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship to work on her ongoing poetry project “Drafts.” The fellowship provides a one-month residency in Bellagio, Italy, to 140 distinguished artists, writers, musicians, scientists, policymakers and development professionals each year.
DuPlessis, who specializes in feminist criticism and contemporary poetry, is a prolific poet and author. This year, she published a book of essays titled Blue Studios: Poetry and Its Cultural Work, her poetry was anthologized in Innovative Women Poets: An Anthology of Contemporary Poetry and Interviews and her 1990 book The Pink Guitar: Writing as Feminist Practice was reprinted.
While in residence in Bellagio in early 2007, she plans to compose a section of “Drafts” focusing on mail art, which she describes as a “mode of witty communicative aphorism and collages on envelopes and postcards, often sent from one person to another in a chain.”
She anticipates that her upcoming work will be inspired by her stay in Italy.
“Because these poems are in general very responsive to time, place, the historical moment, the news and the atmosphere, I would expect some sense of the locale, the interactions, and the languages experienced at Bellagio to be registered in some way in this particular poem,” DuPlessis said.
DuPlessis began writing “Drafts” nearly 20 years ago. Drafts 1-38, Toll and Drafts 39-57, Pledge with Draft, Unnumbered: Précis, were published in 2001 and 2004, respectively.
"I am working on this poem and its interrelationships, learning from it and constructing it all the time," she said.
Among DuPlessis’ other recent honors are a Roy Harvey Pearce/Archive for New Poetry Prize for a lifetime contribution to American poetry and literary scholarship in 2002 and a Temple University Faculty Award for Creative Achievement in 1999.
- By Patti Truant
For the Temple Times