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Gibbons, Hemon Earn National Book Award Nominations

Gibbons was named a finalist for "Creatures of a Day," and Hemon was nominated for "The Lazarus Project."

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October 21, 2008 | by Wendy Leopold
EVANSTON, Ill. --- Northwestern University Professor Reginald Gibbons was in London to give a reading and lecture last week when, looking at the New York Times online, he discovered -- to his surprise -- that he had been named one of five finalists for the prestigious 2008 National Book Award in poetry.

And not only had Gibbons been named! Gibbons, who is professor of English, classics and Spanish and Portuguese, also learned that his friend and colleague Aleksandar Hemon was named a finalist for the National Book Award in fiction.

It was, says Sandi Wisenberg, who co-directs Northwestern's MA/MFA creative writing program with Gibbons, an extraordinary day for the School of Continuing Studies (SCS) program and for Northwestern. Hemon, an SCS lecturer, teaches in the MA/MFA creative writing program.

Gibbons was named a National Book Award finalist for "Creatures of a Day," a collection of poems that contemplates memory, obligation, love, death, celebration and sorrow. Hemon, a Sarajevo-born writer who has made his home in Chicago since 1992, was nominated for his novel "The Lazarus Project."

Northwestern alumna and artistic director of Steppenwolf Theatre Martha Lavey welcomed the director of the National Book Foundation to Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre, where the finalists were announced Oct. 15. Award-winning Chicago novelist Scott Turow, who has taught undergraduates as writer-in-residence at Northwestern's Center for the Writing Arts, read the list of the newly selected finalists.

Gibbons, who also is director of Northwestern's Center for the Writing Arts, and Hemon will travel to New York together to attend the National Book Awards ceremony where the winners in the four categories of the National Book Awards will be announced Nov. 19. More than 200 publishers submitted 1,258 books for the 2008 National Book Awards.

A distinguished poet, fiction writer, translator and literary critic, Gibbons has won the O.B. Hardison Jr. Poetry Prize from the Folger Shakespeare Library; the 1995 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for "Sweetbitter," his first novel; a Guggenheim Fellowship; and the Carl Sandburg Award for "Sparrow: New and Selected Poems." His work has been published in Harper's, Atlantic Monthly, The Nation, New York Times Book Review, and in Pushcart Prize and Best American Poetry anthologies.

Hemon, with encouragement from Gibbons, began publishing his first short stories in English in Northwestern's TriQuarterly magazine (Gibbons was editor of that highly respected literary journal from 1981 to 1997). Hemon is author of "The Question of Bruno" and "Nowhere Men" (which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Award).

Hemon received a MacArthur ("genius") Fellowship in 2004. His work has appeared in the New Yorker, Esquire, the Paris Review, New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Village Voice and other publications. He earned a master's degree from Northwestern.