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U-M prof receives MacArthur "genius award"

John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced today the selection of a University of Michigan professor as one of this year's 21 recipients of its prestigious "genius grants."

The foundation recognized Khaled Mattawa for his creative translations of the work of highly respected Arab poets – as well as for his own poetry. 

He is the author of four books of poetry, has translated nine books of contemporary Arabic poetry and co-edited two anthologies of Arab-Amercian literature. 

Mattawa is also the co-founder of the Arete Foundation of Arts and Culture, which promotes and supports the creative arts in Libya. 

Born in Benghazi, Libya, Mattawa moved to the United States when he was 15.

Mattawa said literature can build bridges between cultures and break down stereotypes and misperceptions. "I'm hoping that I make accessible to American readers very good poetry that taps us into another experience of the world, another point of view of the worlds." 

Mattawa will receive a no-strings-attached $625,000 award, spread over five years. 

He learned the good news two weeks ago when the foundation called his cell phone as he was leaving class. He said it was thrilling and shocking in the best sense of the word.

Virginia Gordan, Michigan Radio Newsroom