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MFA grad makes National Book Awards longlist in poetry

John Lee Clark

John Lee Clark ’21 MFA was recently named to the National Book Awards longlist in poetry for his book, How to Communicate

Clark, who will serve as a guest artist during the College’s winter MFA in creative writing residency, is a deafblind poet, essayist, independent scholar, and leader in the Protactile movement, which centers on using touch to communicate. 

He is also the author of the 2008 chapbook of poems, Suddenly Slow and the 2014 essay collection, Where I Stand: On the Signing Community and My DeafBlind Experience. He has edited two anthologies, 2009’s Deaf American Poetry and 2013’s Deaf Lit Extravaganza

Clark is also the 2021-2023 Bush Leadership Fellow, a research consultant with the Reciprocity Lab at the University of Chicago, and a core member of the Protactile Language Interpreting National Education Center. 

His poems have appeared in The American Poetry Review, The Nation, The New York Times, and Poetry magazine. He is the recipient of Poetry magazine’s 2019 Frederick Bock Prize and a finalist for the 2015 Split This Rock Freedom Plow Award for Poetry and Activism. 

How to Communicate, which also won the 2023 Minnesota Book Award for Poetry, “embraces new linguistic possibilities that emanate from Clark’s unique perspective and his connection to an expanding, inclusive activist community,” according to his publisher, W.W. Norton & Company. “Counteracting the assumptions of the sighted and hearing world with humor and grace, Clark finds beauty in the revelations of communicating through touch: ‘All things living and dead cry out to me / when I touch them.’”

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