Image courtesy of Gregory Pardlo '15 (Right)

Columbia Writers Recognized as 'Black Male Writers For Our Time' by The New York Times

BY Zoe Contros Kearl, December 7, 2018

The New York Times Style Magazine’s current issue features a piece recognizing 32 black American male writers who are “producing literature that is essential to how we understand our country and its place in the world right now.” Among the 32, six Columbia writers are recognized for their talent and cultural influence.


Those named include Dinaw Mengestu '05 (Fiction), Gregory Pardlo '15 (Nonfiction), Shane McCrae (Faculty - Poetry), Rowan Ricardo Phillips (Recent Adjunct), Rickey Laurentiis (Recent Adjunct), and Mitchell S. Jackson (Current Adjunct).


“The last decade has seen a burgeoning multiplicity in America’s literature, with gifted black men writing novels, poems and plays of great import … If this moment is, at least in part, about heightened awareness of black male writers, it may well vanish when the social climate changes — which it inevitably will. A surge of mainstream attention to blackness and its literature isn’t unprecedented in periods of American crisis. The first strains of the Harlem Renaissance began at the tail end of World War I and gained momentum in the 1920s, as the racial makeup of American cities metamorphosed through the Great Migration. The Harlem of the 1930s became home to a concentration of black writers whose work piqued white interest. In the 1960s and ’70s, the Black Arts Movement erupted during the turbulent years of America’s freedom protests. Black voices received heightened attention then, too.” - The New York Times


Dinaw Mengestu is the award-winning author of two previous novels, The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears (2007) and How to Read the Air (2010). He is a graduate of Georgetown University and of Columbia University’s MFA program in fiction. His journalism and fiction have appeared in such publications as Harper’s Magazine, Granta, Rolling Stone, The New Yorker, and The Wall Street Journal. He is a recipient of a 2012 MacArthur Foundation genius grant and currently lives in New York City.


Gregory Pardlo was born in Philadelphia and grew up in Willingboro, New Jersey. He is the author of Totem (2007), winner of the APR/Honickman First Book Prize, and Digest (2014), winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. He was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2017. Pardlo is poetry editor for the Virginia Quarterly Review and teaches in the MFA program at Rutgers University, Camden. He lives in Brooklyn.


Shane McCrae is the author of six books of poetry: The Gilded Auction Block (forthcoming from Farrar, Straus and Giroux), In the Language of My Captor (Wesleyan University Press, 2017), which was a finalist for the National Book Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize; The Animal Too Big to Kill (Persea Books, 2015), winner of the 2014 Lexi Rudnitsky/Editor’s Choice Award; Forgiveness Forgiveness (Factory Hollow Press, 2014); Blood (Noemi Press, 2013); and Mule (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2011). He is the recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. He teaches at Columbia University and lives in New York City.


Rowan Ricardo Phillips was born and raised in New York City. The poet, literary and art critic, and translator earned a BA at Swarthmore College and a PhD at Brown University. He is the author of the poetry collections The Ground (2012) and Heaven (2015), which was a finalist for the National Book Award. In addition to his collections of poetry, Phillips is author of the critical volume When Blackness Rhymes with Blackness (2010). Phillips received a 2013 Whiting Writers’ Award and has also received the PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award, the Great Lakes Colleges Association New Writers Award for Poetry, and a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship. He has taught at Columbia University, Harvard, Princeton, and at SUNY-Stony Brook. Phillips lives in New York and Barcelona.


Rickey Laurentiis, born in New Orleans, is the author of Boy with Thorn, selected by Terrance Hayes for the 2014 Cave Canem Poetry Prize (University of Pittsburgh Press). Laurentiis is recipient of a 2014 fellowship from the Civitella Ranieri Foundation in Italy, a 2013 Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, and a 2012 Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowship. Laurentiis received a MFA in Writing from Washington University in St. Louis and a BA in Liberal Arts from Sarah Lawrence College, where Laurentiss now reads literature and queer theory. Laurentiis recently taught at Columbia University.


Mitchell S. Jackson is the author of Survival Math. His debut novel The Residue Years was praised by publications, including The New York Times, The Paris Review, and The Times (London). The novel won the Ernest Gaines Prize for Literary Excellence, and it was also a finalist for the Center for Fiction’s Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize, the PEN/Hemingway Award for First Fiction, and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. Jackson’s honors include fellowships from the Whiting Foundation, TED, the Lannan Foundation, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and the Center for Fiction. His writing has appeared in The New York Times Book Review, Salon, and Tin House, among other publications. He serves on the faculty at New York University and Columbia University.