Rutgers professor receives poetry award

<p>Rigoberto González, director of Rutgers University—Newark’s MFA in Creative Writing Program, was given the award based on his literary accomplishments.</p>

Rigoberto González, director of Rutgers University—Newark’s MFA in Creative Writing Program, was given the award based on his literary accomplishments.


Rigoberto González, director of Rutgers University—Newark’s MFA in Creative Writing Program, is the winner of the PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry in 2020, according to an article from the School of Arts and Sciences—Newark.

“I'm extremely honored to be celebrated by this prestigious organization that has fought on behalf of incarcerated and silenced writers and journalists around the world and that has defended freedom of expression in our country,” González said.

The award is given in even-numbered years by a panel of 3 to 5 poets or writers with extensive knowledge on contemporary American poetry, according to the article. The panelists must choose a recipient who is a poet with a body of work that is distinguished, continuously growing and “expands the scope of American poetry,” according to the article. 

The panelists for 2020 include poets Cornelius Eady, Deborah Paredez, Linda Gregerson and Monica Youn, according to the article. They said González earned the award not only due to his poetry and non-fiction writing, but also for advocating for other Latinx voices.

González has written 15 books throughout his career, including poetry, novels, memoirs, young-adult novels and bilingual children’s books, according to the article. He also edited various poetry collections, including “Camino del Sol: Fifteen Years of Latina and Latino Writing” and “Xicano Duende: A Select Anthology.”

González has been teaching in the Master's program since 2008. In addition to his time at Rutgers, he also works as a critic for the Los Angeles Times, as a contributing editor for Poets & Writers Magazine and as a monthly columnist for NBC-Latino online, according to the article. 

González is also a board member for three literary organizations, Zoeglossia — A Community for Writers with Disabilities, the Poetry Society of America and the Association of Writers and Writing Programs.

PEN America, which presents the award, was founded in 1922 to protect the right for people to create literature, express ideas and access the writings and ideas of others. The organization has approximately 7,200 members, most of whom are involved in some form of professional writing. 

González said he is pleased that his writing, which reflects his upbringing, has received such a prestegious award. 

“I'm especially touched that my work, with its focus on migration, working-class lives and the borderlands, is being recognized in such a significant way,” González said. “I'm the son of undocumented, illiterate Mexican farm workers. My upbringing has not hindered my success and ambition. On the contrary, it has inspired me to be as dedicated, proud and hard working as my parents.”


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