UM creative writing professor wins Letters Award in Literature

2013-03-20T20:15:00Z 2013-03-20T20:17:13Z UM creative writing professor wins Letters Award in Literature missoulian.com

Chalk one up for another Missoula-based writer.

Poet and University of Montana creative writing professor Joanna Klink received high honors and sweet recognition this week from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

The author of three books of poetry, with a fourth book pending, received the academy’s Letters Award in Literature, honoring her career and poetic publications.

“I wasn’t expecting it at all,” Klink said Wednesday. “I was surprised. This hasn’t happened to me before.”

Klink recalled her early years as a student, when she aspired to be a literary critic.

She attended graduate school looking to analyze other works, but was soon turned on to poetry by a wise professor.

“My first job teaching was here at UM as a visiting professor,” she said. “While I was here, a tenure-track position opened up.

“It’s been the best place to be a writer. Missoula is a great city for artists and the university has been incredibly supportive. The creative writing program is the gem of the university.“

Described as an honors society, the American Academy of Arts and Letters claims 250 lifelong and select members including architects, composers, artists and writers.

Each year, the Academy recognizes more than 50 artists working in various genres for exceptional work.

Academy members nominate award candidates, and committees made up of randomly selected members from the academy’s roster choose the winning recipients.

“Poetry brings you back to yourself in states of stillness and quiet,” Klink said. “There’s so much noise and information out there, but one thing a poem can do is pull you in with its quiet music.“

Klink has authored three books of poetry, including “They Are Sleeping,” “Circadian” and “Raptus.” Her poems have appeared in many anthologies, including “The Penguin Anthology of Twentieth Century American Poetry.“

She’s currently working on her fourth book about Paul Celan. Dubbed “Strangeness,” she hopes to finish the collection in the years ahead.

“Celan was a post-war German-Romanian-Jewish poet, one of the greats of the last century,” Klink said. “It’s an excuse to say why we should care about language that doesn’t immediately make sense. I’m using Celan to say why we should care.“

Reporter Martin Kidston can be reached at 523-5260, or at martin.kidston@missoulian.com.

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