Second UNH Poet Wins Prestigious NEA Fellowship

Karen Grava

John Murillo, an award-winning poet and an adjunct professor of English, has been awarded a $25,000 fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

John Murillo, an adjunct professor of English, has been awarded a $25,000 fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Murillo is the second member of the English department to receive the prestigious award. Randall Horton, assistant professor of English and an acclaimed poet, received a fellowship nearly two years ago.

Murillo is nationally recognized for his poetry. He is a two-time Larry Neal Writers’ Award winner, a New York Times Poetry Fellow at New York University and a member of Cave Canem, an exclusive poetry society.

His poetry has appeared in such publications as Ploughshares, Ninth Letter, Lumina and the anthology DC Poets Against the War.

A former instructor with D.C. Writers Corps and coach of Washington, D.C.’s National Teen Poetry Slam Teams in 2001 and 2005, Murillo has performed his own work in a wide array of venues, from the Kennedy Center to the Bowery Poetry Club.

The NEA award, Murillo said, will provide him time to write a book of poetry. “It was a nice affirmation that someone out there appreciates my work,” he said.

Murrillo said his works are poems of witness that explore love, politics and the human experience. “Most of them are based on my own experiences or the experiences of people around me,” he said.

Murillo, who grew up in south central Los Angeles in a black and Latino neighborhood, often focuses on the gang violence, police brutality and struggles he saw there. “My neighbors were impoverished and there was a lot of fodder for emotion and political commentary,” he said.

A high school basketball player, he did not play sports at Howard University, where he earned his bachelor’s degree, because he cared more about poetry than the money-making potential of sports. “Poetry is one of the most prized fields within the arts,” he said. “But it is the least compensated.”

Murillo also has completed a residency as a Creative Writing Fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Mass.