Creative Writing Professor Honored with National Book Award Nomination

By Robert Bastone, Student Intern of CHASS College Computing

Professor Maurya Simon

Professor Maurya Simon of the Creative Writing Department has recently been nominated for a National Book Award. The award is one of the most prestigious in literature, and is given each year to the author of an outstanding work in one of four categories by the National Book Foundation. Simon’s book, Ghost Orchid, was one of about 120 works by various authors nominated in the poetry category.

Simon stated that she was “thrilled and surprised” when she learned of the nomination. She also indicated that she was pleased by the fact that three of the five finalists for the award this year were published by small literary presses, such as the one that had published her work. Simon acknowledged that in the past, awards such as these had been “dominated [by] big New York publishers.” She added that small presses “need the recognition” because publishing has become very expensive.

Ghost Orchid is an exploration of religion and faith that closely examines the traditional Judeo-Christian concept of God through poetry. According to Simon, the book’s title originates from a rare type of flower that is indigenous to the swamps of the Everglades. The image of the ghost orchid is used as a metaphor for God, which reflects one of the foci of a work that examines the complex perceptions of the sacred within various religious traditions.

Ghost Orchid was released in early 2004 and contains over 30 individual poems. The book took Simon over six years to complete and is the sixth volume of poems she has published. This is her first National Book Award nomination, although an earlier book, Speaking in Tongues, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

In the future, Simon’s next book of poems entitled, The Mapmaker’s Art, is scheduled for publication in January 2006. She is also currently co-editing an anthology of ekphrastic poetry, poems based on works of art, with UCR Master of Fine Arts student Elizabeth Aamot. Simon is also working on several other projects, including her Selected Poems.

Professor Maurya Simon currently serves as an Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Research in the College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (CHASS). She has been teaching at UCR for twenty years and has had her poetry published in numerous periodicals, including The New Yorker and the LA Times Book Review . She completed her undergraduate work at UC Berkeley and Pitzer College, and received her Master’s of Fine Arts in English and Poetry from UC Irvine. Simon has also been the recipient of many honors and awards, including a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and a residency at the American Academy in Rome.

Also of note, Creative Writing Professor Susan Straight was selected and served as a judge for the fiction category. Professor Straight was a finalist in the fiction category in 2001 for her critically acclaimed book, Highwire Moon, which also received many other accolades.

More Information

General Campus Information

University of California, Riverside
900 University Ave.
Riverside, CA 92521
Tel: (951) 827-1012

Career OpportunitiesUCR Libraries
Campus StatusDirections to UCR

College Information

College Student Academic Affairs (All Student Inquiries)
3400 Humanities & Social Sciences Bldg.

Tel: (951) 827-3683 | Fax: (951) 827-5836

College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences
3413 Humanities & Social Sciences Bldg.