MFA in Writing Faculty Member Receives Pulitzer Prize for Poetry


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

A Pacific University Master of Fine Arts in Writing faculty member has been named a 2017 Pulitzer Prize winner.

Tyehimba Jess, a visiting instructor at Pacific and also an associate professor of English at College of Staten Island (NY), received the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in poetry for Olio (Wave Books - April 2016). 

Part fact and part fiction, Olio uses narrative, song and sonnet to investigate the lives of African American performers prior to the Civil War and continuing to the beginning of World War I.

In addition to the Pulitzer, Jess earned finalist honors for Olio earlier this year for a 2017 PEN America Literacy Award.

His first book of poetry, leadbelly, is a winner of the 2004 National Poetry Series, with Library Journal and Black Issues Book Review both naming it among their top poetry works of 2005.

Jess’ honor is just latest in a series of national accolades for Pacific’s MFA in Writing program. Earlier this year, fellow instructor Vievee Francis won the Kingsley Tufts Poetry award, the largest monetary prize for a single collection of poetry, while colleague Ellen Bass became a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

“With a half dozen new faculty books and a dozen new alumni books published in recent months, coupled with these elite honors, our program is having a banner year in the literary world,” director Shelley Washburn said.

For more information, please contact Washburn at 503-352-1532.