English Professors, Lannan Leadership Named Finalists for Neustadt Prize

Left to right: Carolyn Forché and Aminatta Forna have been named finalists for the 2016 Neustadt International Prize for Literature. Photos courtesy of the authors. 

June 9, 2015—Two members of the Department of English have been named finalists for the 2016 Neustadt International Prize for Literature: Carolyn Forché, director of Georgetown’s Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice, and incoming Lannan Foundation Chair of Poetics Aminatta Forna. Based in the President’s Office, the Lannan Center is a literary, critical, and pedagogical undertaking devoted to the situation of poetry and poetics in the contemporary world.

Known as “America’s Nobel” for literature, the Neustadt Prize is the most prestigious international literary award given in the United States. Awarded biennially, the $50,000 award recognizes all writing genres, and any living author in the world is eligible for nomination. It is one of the only international prizes to offer equal eligibility to poets, novelists, and playwrights. 

Seven of this year’s nine finalists are women—the first time that female authors make up the majority of finalists in the award’s history. The nominees represent China, England, the United States, Scotland/Sierra Leone, Canada, Mexico, Scotland, and Croatia/The Netherlands. 

“To be nominated for the Neustadt Prize is a great honor, one that carries with it the grace of so many respected writers who have been previously nominated. I am delighted and humbled to find myself in such company,” said Forna.

Originally from Detroit, Michigan, Carolyn Forché is the author of five books of poetry and has received the Yale Younger Poets Award, Lamont Selection of the Academy of American Poets, Los Angeles Times Book Award, and Robert Creeley Award. She also has been a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. In 2004, she was named a trustee of the Griffin Trust for Excellence in Poetry, Canada’s premier award for poetry. Her fellowships have included the National Endowment for the Arts, a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, and a Lannan Foundation Fellowship. 

Aminatta Forna was born in Scotland, raised in Sierra Leone and Britain, and currently lives in London. She is the award-winning author of the novels The Hired Man, The Memory of Love, and Ancestor Stones. In 2014, she received Yale University’s Donald Windham–Sandy M. Campbell Literature Prize. In addition to her novels, she has published short stories and was a finalist for the 2010 BBC National Short Story Award. Forna is a professor of creative writing at Bath Spa University; she will join Georgetown in fall 2015 as the Lannan Foundation Chair, a visiting position at the university. 

A jury of writers will select the 2016 Neustadt laureate in October during an annual festival at the University of Oklahoma—home of the award-winning international literature and culture magazine, World Literature Today

-Melissa Nyman