Written by Rebecca Holdridge
Willimantic, CT- Reginald Flood, associate professor of English and coordinator of the African American Studies Program at Eastern Connecticut State University, has been named the recipient of a Creative Writing Fellowship in Poetry from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). Announced on Nov. 27, the fellowship brings with it a cash award of $25,000.
Competition for the grant is rigorous. Of 1,173 applications, only 40 received grants. In addition to his talent as a poet, Professor Flood's teaching on the Eastern campus is broad-reaching, ranging from teaching African American Literature -- the works of Langston Hughes, James Baldwin and others -- to supervising writing interns, to developing the writing skills of students through the developmental writing program.
"This award is a testament to the quality of Professor Flood's work and his commitment to his scholarship," said Eastern President Elsa Núñez. "His dedication to his students is a further reminder of why we are so fortunate to have him at Eastern."
NEA fellowships enable recipients to set aside time for writing, research, travel and general career advancement. Flood says he is thrilled, as the fellowship places him in elite company. "I have a great deal of admiration for some of the other poets in this year's class: Rickey Laurentiis, John Murillo and Shane McCrae are all poets whom I have read and admired. Also, I feel this award is validation for a writing project of mine that pushes some boundaries."
Flood's first book, "Coffle," was published in March 2012. A collection of poems written in traditional forms that complement canonical slave narratives, "Coffle" is the first in what Flood hopes will be a trilogy. "I did not know how poems about Harriet Jacobs, Frederick Douglass or Mary Prince would be received; it is gratifying to know some careful readers found they had value." Flood said he plans to use the fellowship to extend his sabbatical into the summer, and will travel to conduct research for the second collection of poetry in his trilogy, "There is Still War in the World."
"There is Still War in the World" focuses on slave narratives recorded during the Great Depression as part of the Works Progress Administration Federal Writer's Project (WPA). "The fellowship will give me the financial ability to retrace the journey many of the former slaves made from Mississippi to Arkansas as slaves before they were freed," said Flood.
"Additionally, I will be able to travel to Washington, D.C., to examine the archives for narratives that are not yet digitized or available on the Internet. That will allow me to get a more in-depth perspective on the lives of the individuals I will be writing poems about."
The NEA Creative Writing Fellowship program has been in place since 1967. The National Endowment for the Arts was established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government. To date, the NEA has awarded more than $4 billion to support artistic excellence, creativity and innovation for the benefit of individuals and communities. The NEA extends its work through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies and the philanthropic sector. For more information, visit www.nea.gov.