The Rutgers University Board of Governors has announced that poet A. Van Jordan, a faculty member at and 1998 graduate of the Warren Wilson College MFA Program for Writers, will be the first Henry Rutgers Presidential Professor.
Acclaimed for his sweeping breadth of vision and depth of insight, Jordan will join the Rutgers University-Newark Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program and the English department of the Rutgers University-Newark Faculty of Arts and Sciences in fall 2014.
“The Henry Rutgers Presidential Professorships, established in the first 100 days of the Strategic Plan as part of the initiative to augment faculty excellence, are intended to build on Rutgers’ strengths by recruiting preeminent senior scholars whose work advances the plan’s goals,” Rutgers University President Robert Barchi said.
Jordan has earned high praise from many of the nation’s most accomplished writers, reflected in a long list of noteworthy awards and honors. Reviewers often remark on his facility in shedding light on human relations while employing a broad range of subject matter, from quantum physics to classic and contemporary film.
Former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky has lauded Jordan’s work, saying it “demonstrates poetry’s power to be at once intimate and wide-ranging,” an indication of what has inspired juries of eminent peers such as Joyce Carol Oates, former U.S. Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner Rita Dove, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Simon Schama to bestow upon him the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award.
His other honors include the PEN/Oakland Josephine Miles Award, a Pushcart Prize, a Times (of London) Literary Supplement Best Book of the Year award, and selection for the anthology Best American Poetry 2013. He also has held a Guggenheim Fellowship and a United States Artists Williams Fellowship. Earlier this year, he was a finalist for an NAACP Image Award, and he currently is on the PEN/Open Book Award Long List for his latest collection, The Cineaste (2013), as well as a finalist for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for the same collection. His previous collections of poetry include Rise (2001), M-A-C-N-O-L-I-A (2005), and Quantum Lyrics (2007).
Born and raised in Akron, Ohio, Jordan earned a bachelor’s degree in English literature from Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio, and M.A. in communications from Howard University. Following work for several years as a journalist, Jordan became interested in writing poetry after attending readings in the Washington, D.C., area. He returned to graduate school, receiving an M.F.A. in creative writing from Warren Wilson College. He also has earned academic credentials in film studies from New York University and screenwriting and production from Vancouver Film School.
Prior to his appointment at Michigan, Jordan was a faculty member at the University of Texas at Austin and had taught at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, the College of New Rochelle, and Prince George’s Community College. He continues to teach in the low-residency M.F.A. Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College.
Characteristically unassuming, Jordan feels like his impending transition is both exciting and natural. “Not only have I admired the work of many of my colleagues in the Rutgers University-Newark creative writing program, but I also have friends among them, a few before I was ever published. So I know they’re doing important work both on the page and in the classroom; I just hope to contribute to the important work they’ve been doing for some time now.”