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Alumnus wins major poetry awards

Matthew Rasmussen ’04 recently won two prestigious awards for his poetry: the 2012 Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets and the 2012 McKnight Artist Fellowship for Writers.

Established in 1975 to encourage burgeoning poets, the Walt Whitman Award is presented annually to one American poet who has not yet published a book of poetry. The award includes a $5,000 cash prize, a one-month residency at the Vermont Studio Center, and the publication of the poet’s first book. A different distinguished poet judges the award each year. This year, poet Jane Hirshfield selected Rasmussen’s manuscript Black Aperture, which Louisiana State University Press will publish in spring 2013.

Hirshfield said that Black Aperture “addresses, with meticulous balance, a single event from multiple directions…The liberations of tongue, word, and conception held in these poems restore the possibility–sense that’s as essential to us as oxygen, when a person stands in the chambers of unacceptable loss.”

Matt Rasmussen '04 was recently honored with two pretisious awards for his poetry.

Rasmussen, who is from Minneapolis, also won a McKnight Artist Fellowship for Writers, a prestigious award given to several Minnesota artists each year. The McKnight Artist Fellowship began in 1981 to assist artists in allocating time for study, reflection, experimentation, exploration, as well as taking time for new opportunities and new projects. Each recipient is awarded a stipend of $25,000.

“When he was at Emerson, Matt’s poetry showed tremendous talent and dedication to the art, and even greater promise,” School of the Arts Interim Dean Daniel Tobin said. “As one of his former teachers, I’m thrilled for him. It’s a major debut for a truly deserving young poet.”

Rasmussen said he is grateful for both honors. “I'm extremely fortunate and honored to have received either one of these awards,” he said. “The Walt Whitman Award is obviously a tremendous honor. I was shocked when I heard I had won and actually still am…The McKnight Foundation's support of my work means a great deal to me and will allow me the time and wherewithal to promote my first book while continuing to write my second.”

Besides his recent awards, Rasmussen is the recipient of grants and residencies from the Bush Foundation, The Corporation of Yaddo, the Minnesota State Arts Board, the Loft Literary Center, Intermedia Arts, the Anderson Center in Minnesota, and the Jerome Foundation. He is a founding co-editor of Birds, LLC, an independent poetry press and the author of a chapbook called Fingergun. His work has been published in several journals including Gulf Coast, Dislocate, Cimarron Review, Mid American Review, Paper Darts, and Water-Stone Review. Rasmussen is a former Peace Corps volunteer and teaches literature and creative writing at Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota.

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