UH Poet Hayan Charara Receives NEA Fellowship

As a teenager, Hayan Charara was thrilled to see his first published poem a few pages away from a piece by influential beat scribe Allen Ginsberg.  The experience energized and inspired the poet, who ultimately would author two books and emerge as a dynamic literary voice.

Now a doctoral candidate in the University of Houston's Creative Writing Program (CWP), Charara has been awarded a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Literature Fellowship for $25,000.

"This fellowship makes my job as a writer much easier, as it allows me to spend more time working on poems," said Charara. "In fact, this comes at a perfect time. I'm about finished with a third collection of poems, and over the next year or so, I will ready them for a new book."

Charara wrote 2001's "The Alchemist's Diary" and 2006's "The Sadness of Others." Common themes and topics presented in his works focus on Arab American culture, family relationships and loss of loved ones.

A poet since his teens, Charara grew up in Detroit and moved to Houston in 2003 to hone his talents at UH's renowned Creative Writing Program.

"Past and present faculty including Tony Hoagland, Mark Doty, Nick Flynn and visiting poet Jane Miller challenged me to reconsider how I write and what I write about, all the while still honoring the vision I have for my poems," he said. "I owe them a good deal. Getting a person, much less a poet, to see the world in a new way is quite an achievement...and I'm rather stubborn."

For fiscal year 2009, NEA awarded 42 poets with fellowships of $25,000. A total of $1,050,000 have been distributed to these writers.

"One of the genuine joys of working in UH's Creative Writing Program is being able to teach and learn from talented students such as Hayan Charara," said J. Kastely, director of CWP.  "He brings to poetry a sensibility that is tuned keenly to issues of justice and issues of beauty."

UH's Creative Writing Program offers graduate poets, fiction writers and non-fiction writers training in both creative writing and literary studies. Students emerge from the program with either a master of fine arts or doctorate. To learn more about the Creative Writing Program, visit www.class.uh.edu/cwp/.
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