English professors recognized with national awards

Bob Hicok (left) and Paul Sorrentino

Bob Hicok (left) and Paul Sorrentino

BLACKSBURG, Va., May 6, 2008 – Bob Hicok and Paul Sorrentino, faculty members in the Department of English in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences at Virginia Tech, were both awarded prestigious Guggenheim Fellowships.

Hicok has also garnered the 2008 Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry for his most recent collection of poems, This Clumsy Living. Awarded through the Library of Congress, where Lyndon Johnson's sister Bobbitt worked in the 1930s, this unique national prize recognizes the most distinguished book of poetry written by an American and published during the preceding two years.

In its 84th annual competition, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation presented 190 Fellowships to artists, scientists, and scholars, with awards totaling $8,200,000. The successful candidates were chosen from a group of more than 2,600 applicants. Guggenheim Fellows are appointed on the basis of stellar achievement and exceptional promise for continued accomplishment. In a time of decreased funding for individuals in the arts, humanities, and sciences, the Guggenheim Fellowship program has assumed a greatly increased importance.

Sorrentino was awarded a Guggenheim for his work on the life of Stephen Crane. Winner of the Outstanding Faculty Award in the Commonwealth of Virginia in 2006, Sorrentino has been a professor of English at Virginia Tech for 29 years. A pre-eminent scholar on Stephen Crane, author of “The Red Badge of Courage,” Sorrentino unearthed some lost Crane papers in Hawaii in 1984, giving the scholarly world additional information on the writer and earning the Stephen Crane Literary Award for his extensive research. He has co-edited The Correspondence of Stephen Crane, co-written The Crane Log: A Documentary Life of Stephen Crane 1871-1900, and is working on Crane's biography.

Hicok, awarded the Guggenheim for poetry, has been called one of the best poets of his generation. His books of poetry include Insomnia Diary, Animal Soul (a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award), Plus Shipping, and The Legend of Light (winner of the 1995 Felix Pollak Prize in Poetry and an American Library Association Booklist Notable Book of the Year).

Hicok is the recipient of two Pushcart Prizes and a National Endowment of the Arts Fellowship, and his poems have been included in four volumes of the Best American Poetry series. He has worked as an automotive die designer and a computer system administrator.

On the Virginia Tech English Department website, Hicok notes, “I love writing, maybe most of all because it doesn’t matter, because poems don’t lift bridges or make refrigerators shinier. The nakedness of the endeavor — just one person, sitting at a desk, trying to express something they feel in a way that will allow others into their mind — may be among the most human things we do.”

The College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences embraces the arts, humanities, social and human sciences, and education. The College nurtures intellect and spirit, enlightens decision-making, inspires positive change, and improves the quality of life for people of all ages. It is home to the departments of Apparel, Housing & Resource Management; Communication; English; Foreign Languages & Literatures; History; Human Development; Interdisciplinary Studies; Music; Philosophy; Political Science; ROTC; Science and Technology in Society; Sociology; Theatre Arts; the School of the Arts; and the School of Education.