UH Poet Earns Soros Fellowship

Janine Joseph was leaving a Houston post office when she received a phone call containing the news that she was among the top students in the nation.

Joseph, a doctoral candidate from the University of Houston's Creative Writing Program, picked up the phone to learn that she was selected to receive a Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship. The person calling with this announcement received an earful after delivering the message.

"I yelled into the phone," Joseph said. "I was excited needless to say. Hearing this news was very unexpected."

Soros Fellowships are awarded to support the graduate study of new Americans (immigrants and children of immigrants). Joseph is one of 31 Soros Fellows who were selected from about 750 applicants. Created in 1997, these fellowships have been awarded to 354 students. For more details on these fellowships, visit http://www.pdsoros.org/.

"The Soros Foundation's award of a fellowship to Janine Joseph underlines the extraordinary talent in at UH," said J. Kastely, director of UH's Creative Writing Program. "Janine was competing against not only graduate students in creative writing but in all disciplines, and her choice by the Soros foundation is a recognition that our students are among the best in the country."

Joseph arrived in the United States from the Philippines when she was 8 years old. Although much of her life has been spent in America, she still draws on her experiences of living in a new country when writing poetry.

"My work often focuses on my own understanding of what it is like to live in a new place. Whether I intend them to be or not, my poems are stories of the immigrant experience. They're classic American stories, but through another lens," she said.

After moving to the U.S. from the Philippines capital of Manila, Joseph spent her adolescent and early college years in southern California. She graduated from the University of California-Riverside with a bachelor's degree in 2005, then headed to New York University, where she completed a master of fine arts in 2007.

Her poetry has been published in numerous journals, anthologies and publications including Third Coast, Calabash, Spoon River Poetry Review and Nimrod International Journal.

Currently, she is working on a collection of poems centered on the lives of undocumented immigrants. The poems explore themes of identity, transformation and the relationships people build with each other.

 "I want, through poetry, to document the experiences of an undocumented person living, working and going to school in this country," she said.

The Soros Fellowship will certainly help Joseph as she focuses her creative energies on new poems. Since high school, Joseph has balanced academics with a job. Now, the resources provided by the fellowship will allow her more time to write.

"This will be weird for me because I always have had to work a lot," she said. "Still, it will be very good because I will be able to give my poetry more attention. I am grateful not only for this fellowship but to be part of the Creative Writing Program. I know both will help me develop as a writer."

 As part of UH's English department, the Creative Writing Program offers poets, fiction writers and non-fiction writers intensive training in both creative writing and literary studies. It offers two graduate degrees: the Master of Fine Arts and Doctor of Philosophy. CWP's noted faculty includes award-winning authors and poets such as novelist Antonya Nelson, poet and non-fiction writer Nick Flynn, graphic novelist Mat Johnson and poet Tony Hoagland. To learn more about the program, visit www.class.uh.edu/cwp/.

About the University of Houston

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