Dr. Kim Bridgford wins prestigious NEA fellowship


Dr. Kim Bridgford, an associate professor of English at Fairfield University, has received a $20,000 National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship to write a book of poetry. During the period of the fellowship which begins in September, she will work on the book, "Balancing Paradise."

Dr. Bridgford is one of 32 artists to receive the endowment's 1999 Creative Writing Fellowship, having competed against 1,000 applicants for the coveted prize.

She has published over 300 poems in journals such as "The Iowa Review" and "The Georgia Review," and said she would like to contribute to a movement in American poetry that is concentrating on a return to a traditional form. She would particularly like to focus on three areas: the sonnet, the villanelle, and the sestina.

It was an exciting moment, Dr. Bridgford said, when an administrator from the endowment called to give her the good news and asked, "Have I made your day?" Dr. Bridgford replied, "You've made my year!"

The fellowship, she said, "will enable me to complete a book-length manuscript as well as focus on some of the more complicated forms, such as the crown and sonnet redouble, both a series of interconnecting sonnets

Dr. Bridgford explained that a criticism of contemporary poetry is that it is too much like prose, hence the increasing appeal of the traditional form that employs rhyme and meter. Her favorite traditional form is the sonnet, a 14-line poem. "It sounds different with every little change. It appeals to my sense of detail," she said.

Dr. Bridgford said she likes poems that are conversational, and wants readers to notice the form and rhythms. "I like to break the form and experiment with various parts of form," she said.

Dr. Bridgford was named Connecticut Professor of the Year for 1994 by the prestigious Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The year before, Alpha Sigma Nu, Fairfield University's chapter of the Jesuit honor society, selected her Teacher of the Year for her teaching style and accessibility outside the classroom. A poet and fiction writer since she was seven, she has relied on feedback from trusted individuals on her works to improve her writing. So she makes herself readily available in class, her office or at home, oftentimes spending hours discussing assignments.

Dr. Bridgford earned a bachelor's degree and a master of fine arts in creative writing from the University of Iowa. After earning her doctorate from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, she taught at Hamilton College in New York. She joined the Fairfield faculty 10 years ago.

"I draw on the personal, but the poems are not about me," she said. "Poetry combines the practical with the spiritual and confers to the reader an understanding of other people and experiences. Sometimes you may not understand your feelings at the moment, but poetry gives you some perspective on the moment and helps you understand it better." It speaks to things that cannot be articulated at the moment."

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on April 1, 1999

Vol. 31, No. 240