Out of an estimated* 40 billion applicants, the National Endowment for the Arts has chosen only 36 poets to receive the coveted Creative Writing Fellowship in Poetry. Zero of this year’s recipients are in Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati or any of Ohio’s other C-fronted cities—that includes you, Coshocton, Chillicothe, Cuyahoga Falls and Canton. There are none in Pittsburgh, Detroit or Los Angeles. Just one in Chicago and only two in New York City.
But an NEA fellow does live among us here in the Rubber City: Mary Biddinger.
She’s an accomplished poet, UA professor, NEOMFA faculty, “Barn Owl Review” founder, fun to follow on Twitter, a fantasy football savant and mom to two really cool kids, who themselves happen to be pretty good at fantasy football (and probably poetry too).
Mary was one of the first people I met in Akron, back when my wife and I were deciding whether to uproot our lives from the Deep South to the deep freeze. Funny, smart, talented and fond of good beer, she made an impression. I figured, if there are people like Mary here, we’ll be pretty happy.
What do I mean, people like her? In addition to the aforementioned superlatives, I mean folks who’ve come from all over, recognized something special in Akron and made their home here. She was born in California then raised and educated in Illinois and Michigan, but if you ask me—and no one is—Mary is an Akronite now and she does this city proud.
Soon, as the headline suggests, I’m going to make her talk to me. It’s the end of the semester and those academic types are pretty busy. But the moment she’s available, I’m going to start firing questions at her. If you have any questions you’d like to ask her, leave them in the comments below or shoot an email to chris (at) thedevilstrip (dot) com.
Congrats, Mary! (And to the other 35 recipients.)
*I made the estimate by using the first big number that sounded cool in my head. It’s a very unofficial figure.