Michael Wasson

LC State alum Wasson earns prestigious U.S. poetry fellowship

LEWISTON, Idaho – Michael Wasson, a 2012 graduate of Lewis-Clark State College, was one of five winners of the prestigious Poetry Foundation and Poetry magazine 2019 Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowships, it was announced Tuesday.

Wasson, 29, receives a $25,800 prize, which makes the fellowship among the largest and most acclaimed awards available for young poets in the United States, according to the Poetry Foundation. This is the 30th year of the fellowship program, which has honored 89 writers during that time.

When asked what winning the fellowship means to him, Wasson told the Poetry Foundation, “As an indigenous boy from the sticks: [it means] the world, despite it still overwhelming me daily.”

This year, there were 1,573 submissions for the fellowships and the field was reduced to 10 finalists. Since 2008, the foundation has granted five fellowships each year to poets, who must be between 21 and 31 years old and be from the United States.

“The fellowship program recognizes poets who are already creating wonderful work, and exists in order to encourage them to further their craft,” said Poetry magazine editor Don Share. “It is a pleasure to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the program with this outstanding group of poets. Educators, organizers, editors, and much more besides — all of them are as committed to making room for other poets as they are to their own writing.”

Wasson said in a 2017 interview with LCSC that he moved a lot during his youth and attended 12 schools before high school. He said he usually wound up back at his grandfather’s home in Lenore, Idaho, and he moved back to the Nez Perce Reservation before high school. He graduated from Lapwai High in 2008 and decided to enroll at LCSC.

“I have to say, aside from all the wonderful and horizon-bending conversations I had by slipping into one of my professor’s offices during office hours, the lasting friendships I made with the Japanese students as well as the international students,” Wasson said about his favorite thing while attending LCSC. “It changed my whole path. Those relationships truly helped to build a better me. A better self. I wouldn't be where I am today without those bonds I made while at LC.”

Wasson later earned a Master’s of Fine Arts from Oregon State University and taught foreign languages at 10 schools on the Koshikijima Islands of the coast of southwestern Japan.

I wouldn’t be where I am today without those bonds I made while at LC,” he said. “My time at LCSC helped to prepare me professionally for my life in both teaching and engaging myself internationally.

“Also, in terms of my creative and critical production, I must say that LCSC carved out a path for me to pursue graduate school, discover and strengthen my passion for poetry, art, and writing, which is how I frame the world — how I gradually swallow all of these experiences into my body and make something for my own small but once granted life.”

Wasson will join fellow winners Franny Choi, Jane Huffman, Jose Olivarez, and Justin Phillip Reed at a joint appearance at Poetry Day in Chicago on Oct. 3. A sample of their work will be featured in a future issue of Poetry magazine.