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Rosanna Warren elected to American Academy of Arts and Letters

Rosanna Warren. Photo by Vernon Doucette

This story was published in the BU Bridge on February 25, 2005.

Celebrated poet, critic, editor, translator, and teacher Rosanna Warren has been elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Membership in the honorary academy is among the highest recognitions of artistic merit in the United States and is limited to 250 individuals, with new members elected only as vacancies occur. Warren, a CAS and GRS professor of English and modern foreign languages, a UNI professor, and the Emma Ann MacLachlan Metcalf Professor of the Humanities, will be inducted in New York City in May.

Entering the academy with Warren this year are architects Maya Lin and James Stewart Polshek, landscape architect Laurie Olin, artists Kiki Smith and Cindy Sherman, playwright Tony Kushner, and composer T. J. Anderson. The academy’s secretary, Robert Pinsky, a CAS and GRS English professor and former U.S. poet laureate, will induct the new members.

“I am humbled and moved to have been invited to join the master writers and makers who are — and have been in the past — members of the academy,” says Warren, who has taught at BU since 1982. She adds that the academy, since its founding at the turn of the 20th century, has been instrumental in guiding the development of our nation’s distinct literary and artistic cultures. “We are still a young country,” she says. “Our arts are still exploratory. I see us as engaged in an essentially communal work, though the forms that our work takes are solitary.”

The American Academy of Arts and Letters annually offers more than 50 cash awards to support up-and-coming artists. It also maintains a museum and library in New York City, organizes exhibitions of art, manuscripts, books, and scores, as well as readings and performances, and has an honorary membership of 75 foreign artists to strengthen cultural ties with other countries. In addition to Pinsky, BU faculty who belong to the academy are Renata Adler, a COM visiting professor of journalism, a UNI fellow, and longtime New Yorker staff writer, the novelist and Nobel Laureate Saul Bellow (Hon.’04), who is a UNI professor emeritus, Lukas Foss (Hon.’03), a CFA music professor and one of the greatest composers of his generation, and the Nobel Prize winning author, humanitarian, and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel (Hon.’74), who is BU’s Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities. Composer Samuel Adler (CFA’48) and painter Brice Marden (CFA’61) also are academy members.

Warren, the author of four poetry collections — Snow Day (1981), Each Leaf Shines Separate (1984), Stained Glass (1993), and Departure (2003) — is known for her dense verse, rich imagery, and often intensely personal subject matter. In her best work, the New York Times once wrote, “her lavish technique is disciplined by her austere moral intelligence.”

Warren’s books also include The Art of Translation: Voices from the Field (1989), which she edited and contributed to, the 1963 novelette The Joey Story, published when she was 10, and with her husband, CAS and GRS Associate Professor of Classical Studies Stephen Scully, a 1995 translation of Euripides’ Suppliant Women. Warren has edited two volumes of William Arrowsmith’s translations of poems by Eugenio Montale, Cuttlefish Bones (1992) and Satura (1998), and three anthologies of verse by prison inmates, In Time (1995), with Teresa Iverson, and From This Distance (1996) and Springshine (1998), both with Meg Tyler. She currently is working on a new book of poems entitled Vacant Lots, a literary biography of French poet Max Jacob, and a book of essays. She will be on sabbatical next year, working in Germany from January through May on a fellowship from the American Academy of Berlin, which is not part of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Also a famously devoted mentor and teacher, Warren last year won one of the University’s Metcalf Awards for Excellence in Teaching. She teaches courses across the humanities at BU, including the University Professors Program annual seminar in literary translation and an upper-level course in 19th- and 20th-century French poetry. Her other honors include the Ingram Merrill Grant for Poetry, a Guggenheim fellowship, the Lamont Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets, the Lila Wallace–Readers’ Digest Award for Poetry, the Witter Binner Poetry Prize, and the Award of Merit for Poetry from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 1997, Warren was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She is a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and in the fall of 2000 was the New York Times Resident in Literature at the American Academy in Rome.