NYU Alumnus Wins Pulitzer Prize for Poetry


Tyehimba Jess (GSAS '04) was awarded the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for a distinguished volume of original verse by an American author.

Pulitzer Prizes

Olio (Wave Books, 2016), Jess’ second collection of poetry, was selected as a distinctive work that melds performance art with the deeper art of poetry to explore collective memory and challenge contemporary notions of race and identity. The book weaves sonnet, song, and narrative to examine the lives of mostly unrecorded African American performers directly before and after the Civil War up to World War I.

An alumnus of NYU’s Creative Writing Program, Jess received a 2004 Literature Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and his first book of poetry, leadbelly, was a winner of the 2004 National Poetry Series. is currently an associate professor of English at the College of Staten Island.

Two additional NYU alumni were named finalists for Pulitzer Prizes. Surya Mattu (Tisch ’14), a graduate of the Interactive Telecommunications Program where he was also a "Something in Residence," was part of a team at ProPublica, an investigative nonprofit, named a finalist in the explanatory reporting. A series of stories by the ProPublica team used data journalism and lucid writing to explain the abstract world of algorithms and how they shape our lives in realms such as criminal justice, online shopping, and social media.

Historian Micki McElya (GSAS ’03) was nominated in the general nonfiction category for her book The Politics of Mourning: Death and Honor in Arlington National Cemetery (Harvard University Press, 2016), a luminous investigation of how policies and practices at Arlington National Cemetery have mirrored the nation’s fierce battles over race, politics, honor and loyalty.

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