E. Ethelbert Miller Receives 2016 George Garrett Award
April 21, 2016
On Thursday, March 31, at this year’s Annual Conference & Bookfair, AWP awarded its George Garrett Award for Outstanding Community Service in Literature to E. Ethelbert Miller. The award recognizes individuals who have made notable donations of care, time, labor, and money to support writers and their literary accomplishments. The award is named for George Garrett (1929–2008), who made exceptional contributions to his writers as a teacher, mentor, editor, friend, board member, and good spirit. Garrett served for many years as the editor of Intro, an annual anthology of work by emerging writers; he served as one of the founding members of the AWP Board of Directors; he taught creative writing and literature for more than forty years; and he was the author of more than thirty books. As a writer, teacher, mentor, editor, or inspiration, Garrett helped many young writers who are now major contributors to contemporary letters. The award includes a $2,000 honorarium in addition to travel, accommodations, and registration to attend AWP’s annual conference, where the award is publicly announced and conferred.
AWP Board Chair Bonnie Culver served as MC for the ceremony, and in her introductory remarks, said of Miller, “As writer, editor, educator, public speaker, arts administrator, board member, and mentor, Ethelbert’s commitment to cultivate Martin Luther King’s ‘beloved community’ is decades long and all-encompassing, blurring the lines of artist and activist, intellectual and administrator.”
Culver detailed Miller’s many accomplishments. “Ethelbert brought scores of gifted writers to the university not only as readers, but as seekers and as students. And he’s mentored many younger writers beyond Howard’s campus—as a core faculty member, Writer- or scholar-in-residence, visiting professor, among other appointments worldwide. Yet Ethelbert’s influence has never been limited to the academic world; he has also worked to shape the literary field at large by influencing cultural policy and institutional infrastructures from positions of governance. …
E. Ethelbert Miller is a writer who was empowered by the Black Arts Movement to examine—and interrogate—the values and beliefs of his own life. His literary achievement includes eleven books of poetry and memoir as well as groundbreaking anthologies such as Beyond the Frontier African American Poetry for the 21st Century (2002), In Search of Color Everywhere: A Collection of African American Poetry (1994), Through the chorus of voices he has gathered in these books, his passionate editorial spirit reckons with our complex cultural moment….
AWP’s George Garrett Award recognizes Ethelbert Miller’s extraordinary contribution as a literary activist—the identity he holds dearest—and as an artist whose creativity, decade after decade, continues to find clear and compelling expression through service.”
After receiving the award, Miller addressed the crowd at the reception. “I never saw myself as simply being a writer. I define myself as a literary activist, a person concerned not only with the creation of literature but also its promotion and preservation. To be a literary activist is to embrace the marathon and not the sprint. It is important to be a long distance runner.
Our literary community consists not only of writers, but everyone who loves language, books and the art of storytelling. Our community embraces librarians, independent bookstore owners, as well as people struggling to write behind bars.…
It is not enough to simply build—we must sustain institutions, we must cherish and protect them. Today there is still much heavy lifting we need to undertake. There is still the ongoing task to fight against the erasing of culture in different parts of the world as well as the censorship of ideas. If we write poems in private let us always protect our privacy.…
The greatest service an individual can make is to undertake the journey to reach another person’s heart. Too often this path is filled with obstacles and there is a tendency to stop, turn away and turn back.…
My dear AWP, You are my community, my Beloved Community. This award gives me the strength to rise early tomorrow and work long into the night.
A night filled with many stars and the glitter of promise and possibility.”
The full text of Miller’s acceptance speech and Culver’s remarks can be found in the George Garrett Award section of AWP’s website.