Blugold alumna Elizabeth Willis, '83, was a 2016 finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in poetry, announced in April.
Willis, born in Bahrain, grew up in the Midwest and graduated from UW-Eau Claire with a B.A. in English. She completed her Ph.D. in Poetics at the University of Buffalo. Willis has taught at several institutions including Brown University, Mills College, the University of Denver and Wesleyan University and has held residencies at the MacDowell Colony and the Centre International de Poésie, Marseille. Formerly the Shapiro-Silverberg professor of literature and creative writing at Wesleyan University, she currently serves as Professor of Poetry at the Iowa Writers' Workshop.
Willis has been awarded fellowships from the California Arts Council and the Howard Foundation and has won the National Poetry Series, the PEN New England Award and the Boston Review Prize for Poetry. In 2012, she was awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship.
Former Poet Laureate of Wisconsin and UW-Eau Claire professor of English Max Garland characterized Willis's work in this way:
"She is very gifted poet, a talented reader, and a writer of great intelligence and lyricism. Her poems have an interesting way of navigating between difficulty and accessibility, navigating successfully, I would say. I also appreciate her critical work on Lorine Niedecker, an important earlier Wisconsin poet, whose work Elizabeth has helped bring to greater public attention and appreciation."
For more about Willis's Pulitzer nomination, see the following April article from the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram.