Knox Professor Roy-Fequiere Receives Poetry Fellowship

Recent writing retreat was 'life-changing experience,' she says

July 25, 2011

Magali Roy-Fequiere

Magali Roy-Fequiere, Knox College associate professor and chair of the Gender and Women's Studies program, has been awarded a 2011 Cave Canem poetry fellowship. She recently completed her first writing workshop with other Cave Canem fellows and faculty members.

The Cave Canem Foundation, based in Brooklyn, New York, considers hundreds of applicants and selects about 20 poets to receive the coveted award each year. Cave Canem fellows participate in three writing workshops over a five-year period.

Roy-Fequiere's fellowship began in June with a weeklong writing retreat at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg, Pennsylvania. She worked with Natasha Trethewey, who won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for poetry, and other faculty members, including Toi Derricotte, Cornelius Eady, Terrance Hayes, Carl Phillips and Claudia Rankine.

"It was really a life-changing experience to be with all these people. We spent a whole week together -- writing, creating, critiquing our work," Roy-Fequiere said. "What Cave Canem was for me was excitement -- a deep love of the craft. Everybody was there thinking about how to make their words more powerful."

"It's made me go deeper into my poetry in a way that I didn't know could be possible," she added. "Words have more heft, they have more presence, and I think that's beautiful."

Cave Canem fellows receive free tuition for the writing retreat, and Roy-Fequiere also received support from the Faculty Research Fund of Knox College to travel there. Knox "has been very welcoming of my work," she said.

Roy-Fequiere said that writing poetry has made her "more experimental" as a teacher at Knox. For example, for an assignment in her Gender and Literature course (GWST 221), she offered students a choice between writing an analytical paper or a short story. Many of them opted for the short story, and she was impressed with the results.

"I was elated and humbled to see how hard they worked to create those ‘other worlds' in their short stories," she said.

A member of the Knox College faculty since 1995, Roy-Fequiere is author of the literary history Women, Creole Identity and Intellectual Life in Early Twentieth-Century Puerto Rico.

Known mainly as a literary critic for much of her career, Roy-Fequiere began writing poetry about four years ago. Her poems cover a wide range of subjects, including nature, politics and childhood. "Poetry has the potential to connect to the body, to the freshness of the phenomenal world, to walk philosophical and political tightropes," she said.

Cave Canem, founded in 1996 by poets Toi Derricotte and Cornelius Eady, is committed to cultivating the artistic and professional growth of emerging African American writers.

The organization awards book prizes, and it conducts workshops and panels with renowned poets and scholars. They include Derek Walcott, who received the 1992 Nobel Prize in Literature, and 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner Rita Dove, a former poet laureate of the United States who received an honorary degree from Knox College in 1989, when she spoke at the Commencement ceremony.

Founded in 1837, Knox is a national liberal arts college in Galesburg, Illinois, with students from 48 states and 51 countries. Knox's "Old Main" is a National Historic Landmark and the only building remaining from the 1858 Lincoln-Douglas debates.