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Graduate wins prestigious poetry prize

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. -- A young Mennonite poet has won one of the largest awards offered to aspiring writers in the United States. Nathan Bartel, a 2002 graduate of Bethel College in North Newton, has received the 2004 Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowship, along with Emily Moore of New York City. The $15,000 awards are intended to help recipients continue their study and writing of poetry.

Bartel grew up at Rocky Mountain Mennonite Camp near Divide, Colo., and is currently a student in the M.F.A. program at the University of Montana in Missoula.

The Lilly Poetry Fellowships have been awarded annually since 1989 through a national competition. Any undergraduate or graduate writing program in the United States may nominate a candidate.

This year, there were more than 150 applications. To be eligible, a student must not have received an advanced degree before the end of the Fellowship award year. The Lilly Fellowship is specifically intended for poets under age 30, to be used for the study and practice of poetry in whatever way they wish.

"Those of us who consider poetry a vocation know how hard it is to come by fiscal stability in this particular line of work," Bartel said. "An award like the Ruth Lilly Fellowship means the world to me, both literally and figuratively.

"The funding provided by the Poetry Foundation allows me to take time to write, and to take that time in a place of my choosing," he continued. "That may be the best gift a writer could get. I am grateful to Ruth Lilly and the Poetry Foundation for providing the poetry community the rare opportunity to do the work we love on our own terms."

The Poetry Foundation of Chicago, which publishes Poetry magazine, organizes and administers the Lilly Poetry Fellowship program. Christian Wiman, Poetry editor and one of the award judges, said, "This was the highest number of applicants we’ve ever received for the Lilly Fellowships, and we’re delighted with the two poets who emerged as winners. You’ll be hearing a lot more of them in the future."

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