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Poetry Prize Recognizes Instructor’s Accomplishments, Potential

July 6, 2016

"Night" PoemThe American Academy of Arts & Sciences has awarded its prestigious May Sarton Prize for Poetry to Vanesha Pravin, a lecturer in UC Merced’s Merritt Writing Program.Vanesha Pravin

The award, considered one of the top national prizes in this field, recognizes young poets for their achievement and promise. Winners receive $60,000 as part of the prize.

The Academy’s current membership includes more than 250 Nobel laureates and more than 60 Pulitzer Prize winners. All members help in the prize selection.

In its official notification to Pravin, the Academy wrote that she has “remarkable talent and enormous potential to express deeply personal ideas and emotions that connect to us all.” Pravin’s work was selected for its role in advancing the art of poetry through command of language and form, and exploration of sound and rhythm.

Pravin’s work has appeared in Slate and the journals Callaloo and Crab Orchard Review, among others. She published her first collection of poems, “Disorder,” last year through the University of Chicago Press. She has another book in the works.

Pravin’s motivation for the poems that make up the book was the idea of how a person’s worldview is inherited and shaped by environment, lineage and factors independent of background. The end result, she said, is “a sequence of lyric and narrative poems that intersperses the past and present, from rural villages and cities in India and Africa, to England, and then to the U.S.” — all written from the perspective of her mother.

The same material might have been remembered and interpreted differently by another person,” Pravin said. “The whole idea of ‘Disorder’ includes the disorder of memory and how things shift and distort through remembrance.”