NP woman gets $25,000 fellowship to write poetry for a year

NP woman gets $25,000 fellowship to write poetry for a year

NORTH PROVIDENCE – Poet Julie Danho O’Connell has been awarded a $25,000 fellowship by the Rhode Island Foundation through its Robert and Margaret MacColl Johnson Fellowship Fund. The North Providence resident will use the money to help her write poetry over the next year.

The program is considered to be one of the largest no-strings-attached awards available to writers in the United States.

“Our fellowships provide significant financial support that enables artists to further their work,” said Daniel Kertzner, senior philanthropic adviser for funding partnerships who oversees the foundation’s arts grants.

“They provide Rhode Island artists with the precious commodities of time and money so they can spend more time developing their craft. And that echoes the value the MacColl Johnsons placed on the role of artists in the community.”

Danho O’Connell has received several fellowships in poetry from the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts. Her chapbook, “Six Portraits,” won the 2013 Slapering Hol Press Chapbook Competition, and her poems have appeared in publications including “Barrow Street,” “Southern Poetry Review” and “West Branch.”

“The best poems insist that we make a leap into the unknown,” she said. “I write poetry to discover and experience these leaps for myself and, hopefully, to enter the conversation begun by the poets who inspire me,” she said. “These leaps of imagination bridge our experiences with those of the poet. This is deeply personal and strikes at the core of what it means to be human.”

Danho O’Connell plans to use her fellowship to take time off from her work for Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island to write, do research, attend conferences and organize poetry readings.

“More than anything, the fellowship will afford me more time to devote to my manuscript. Right now, I get up every morning at 5:30, which gives me about an hour to write before I leave for work or, on weekends, before my daughter wakes up,” she said.

“I try to write at night, too, but as a mother and full-time editor, I have considerably less time and energy then. My goal is always to put my writing life in the forefront, but financial and practical obligations can make this a challenge.

“I also believe the fellowship will help me find my place in the local writing community and attract a wider audience,” she added. “Emerging writers often occupy an odd space – not belonging to the groups of beginning writers or within the ranks of established veterans – especially when working outside of academia.”

Since publishing her chapbook, she’s been invited to participate in anthologies, readings, and interviews by writers she’s met through her New York-based press, but has yet to make similar connections locally.

“Rhode Island is an incredible place for the arts, and I want to be a greater contributor to the vibrancy of our state,” she said.