Musicologist and poet awarded Guggenheim fellowships

Alejandro L. Madrid, professor of music and chair of the Department of Music, and Valzhyna Mort, associate professor of literatures in English, both in the College of Arts and Sciences, have been named 2022 fellows by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.

Madrid, a cultural theorist of sound and music working in Latin American and Latinx studies, and Mort, a poet and translator, are two of the 180 writers, artists, scientists and scholars in the U.S. and Canada awarded the Guggenheim fellowship this year, selected from nearly 2,500 applicants.

The fellowships are awarded on the basis of prior achievement and exceptional promise, and provide six to 12 months of time in which Guggenheim fellows can work with as much creative freedom as possible.

“Now that the past two years are hopefully behind all of us, it is a special joy to celebrate the Guggenheim Foundation’s new class of fellows,” said foundation President Edward Hirsch in a press release. “This year marks the foundation’s 97th annual fellowship competition. Our long experience tells us what an impact these annual grants will have to change people’s lives. The work supported by the foundation will aid in our collective effort to better understand the new world we’re in, where we’ve come from and where we’re going. It is an honor for the foundation to help the fellows carry out their visionary work.”

As a Guggenheim fellow, Madrid plans to focus on his current book project, “Beyond the Walls of the Sounded City,” which studies sound archives and the transhistorical creation and circulation of knowledge in and about Latin America.

Madrid describes the concept of the “Sounded City” as his way to challenge “the celebratory tone of the aural turn in cultural studies” and investigate “how a concept such as the ‘Lettered City’ – the enlightened elite essential in designing and implementing cultural, social and political projects throughout the history of Latin America – continues to carry cultural valence at the intersection of today’s neoliberal reconfiguration of society, the arts and intellectual life in the region.”

The book is part of a larger intellectual project that explores “the intersection of nationalism and modernism in order to develop a critique of exceptionalism and a progressive and inclusive alternative to identity politics,” he said.

The author of more than half a dozen books, Madrid is a recipient of the Dent Medal, the Premio de Musicología Casa de las Américas, and awards from the ASCAP Foundation, the Latin American Studies Association, the American Musicological Society and the International Association for the Study of Popular Music, among other recognitions. He has received fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, the Ford Foundation and the Fulbright-García Robles Scholarship.

Mort received news of the Guggenheim fellowship while at the American Academy in Rome, a result of her being awarded the 2021-2022 Rome Prize in Literature.

“I’m working on a book of poetry and essays interested in what I call ‘surviving the survivor’ or post-generational trauma, multilingualism, immigrant experience and Eastern European womanhood,” Mort said. “But I’m a lyrical poet, so as I write, I hope for a surprise, for an accident. My process is creative and is about patience and attention. I pay attention to architecture, music, landscape, cinema and art as well as my own obsessions bestowed upon me by history and family.”

Mort’s 2020 book, “Music for the Dead and Resurrected,” won the Griffin Poetry Prize in the international category in June 2021 and this month received the University of North Texas Rilke Prize. She published two earlier books in America, “Factory of Tears” (2008) and “Collected Body” (2012). A 2017 collection, “Rose Pandemic,” was published in Belarus, Mort’s native country.

Mort – who writes in English and Belarusian, and translates between English, Belarusian, Russian, Ukrainian and Polish – is a recipient of a Lannan Foundation Fellowship, Poetry Magazine’s Bess Hokin Prize and an Amy Clampitt Fellowship. She received the Gulf Coast Prize in Translation and a National Endowment for the Arts grant for her work translating Polina Barskova’s book of selected poems, “Air Raid.” Internationally, she has received the Burda Prize for Eastern European authors, in Germany, and the Crystal of Vilenica prize, in Slovenia.

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