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Campaign Seeks to Establish Creative Writing Award in Honor of Retired Professor

by on June 15, 2017 12:25 PM

The creative writing program in Penn State's Department of English has launched a campaign to raise funds for an annual award supporting a creative writing student in honor of recently retired professor Robin Becker.

In recognition of Becker's 23 years on the university faculty, the campaign is seeking to raise $23,000 to establish the fund, which would award approximately $1,100 each year to graduate or undergraduate students with financial need and promise in creative writing, especially poetry.

Becker retired in May as a Research Professor of English and Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies.

"Becker was a venerated mentor for graduate, undergraduate and returning students," a news release said. "In class, she encouraged them to consider their work and the work of their classmates as curious objects, rather than flawed drafts. She taught writers to value themselves, their time and their efforts."

Former students of Becker have become authors, editors and creative writing teachers and program directors. Many have gone on to win awards for their creative work, including poet Katherine Bode-Lang, who won the 2014 American Poetry Review/Honickman First Book Prize for The Reformation.

Bode-Lang wrote on the campaign's website that in her second week of the Master of Fine Arts program, she was nervous to be the first student in Becker's class to workshop a poem. 

"All I cared about was that after Robin read it, she said it was 'a fine poem to start the workshop,'" Bode-Lang said. "Her affirmation pushed me forward, and it was Robin’s guidance that kept pushing me forward over the next three years. That poem was the first poem in my graduate thesis and chapbook, and later the fourth poem in my full-length collection, The Reformation. It took ten years, but my book started in a classroom in Burrowes with a nod from Robin."

Students in Becker's book review class regularly published in publications such as Harvard Review and Publisher's Weekly.

Becker has published seven books and served as poetry editor for the Women's Review of Books. She was named Penn State Laureate for 2010-11.

Donation levels are named after forms of poetry, from $10 haiku level to the $100 heroic ballad. For more on the campaign, visit grow.psu.edu.

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