"The fellowships are awarded to people who are at the forefront of their field," said USA spokesperson Aga Sablinska. "In this case, Martin Espada is the Latino poet of the United States."
Espada, an English professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, has published 17 books as a poet, editor, essayist and translator. His latest collection of poetry, "The Trouble Ball," is due for release in the spring.
The funds, donated by private organizations like the Rockefeller, Ford and Prudential foundations, are unrestricted, Sablinska said; each fellow may spend the $50,000 however he or she sees fit.
How will Espada spend his grant? He's definitely not going on vacation, he said.
"What we all share in this country is a culture of debt," Espada said. "What this grant helps me to do is deal with that."
Espada said he was notified that he had been awarded the grant in the fall, but the recipients weren't officially announced until Dec. 7. The fellows were selected in a year-long process that involved 150 secret nominators scouring the nation for what they considered to be America's finest artists, Sablinska explained.
The nominators ranged from museum directors to established artists. All were asked to submit the names of artists they believe displayed extraordinary commitment to their crafts.
Espada said it was "an incredible blessing" to be selected as a fellow. He plans to use the grant money, he says, to alleviate some "worry" that he's accumulated over the years.
"Freedom from worry is precious," Espada said. "What artists call inspiration is nothing but another form of higher concentration; that concentration is only possible if you can free your mind from the external pressures of the world. It remains to be seen what I'll do with this freedom from pressure, but I know it will translate into tangible work."(From the Daily Hampshire Gazette, 12/16/10)