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Creative Writing spawns Fulbright award winner

June 28, 2004

Photo of Nicole PollentierNicole Pollentier is absolutely thrilled about celebrating her 30th birthday among strangers in a cold, dark part of the world. The creative writing graduate student was recently selected for a 2004/05 Fulbright student award. She departs for Reykjavik just a few days before her September birthday for a nine-month exploration of Icelandic culture and language.

Pollentier, who grew up in Texas and received her undergraduate degree in art history from the University of Texas in Austin, is a second-generation Mexican American who has backpacked her way through Europe, South America and North America. She insists that she is "drawn to cultures that revolve around a vital connection to fish and the fishing industry." A 1995 trip to Kodiak, Alaska, which is relatively close in latitude to Reykjavik, inspired "smolt" (Wings Press, San Antonio Texas, 1998), her first published chapbook, and some early research on Iceland.

Pollentier looks forward to "living in the dark." Among her studies in Iceland is "a creative exploration of the Icelandic polar night. I am intrigued by the complimentary experience of living in predominant darkness while investigating cultural responses to such environments," she says. The $1,000-per-month Fulbright stipend will allow Pollentier to rent an apartment in Iceland's capital where she will study the native language at the University of Iceland. She plans to visit traditional fishing villages to study and get to know people in the fishing and canning industries. The rest of her time will be spent investigating such details of the indigenous culture as an "invisible world" of elves and fairies and traditional gastronomic delights.

Hakarl, the Icelandic delicacy of putrid shark meat, is something Pollentier says she must try. She may even wash it down with the traditional potato liquor known as "black death." It's a prospect she seems to relish. "I just get wrapped up in the energy of those I'm with," she says.

Though poetry is the focus of Pollentier's MFA studies, she has a passion for cross-genre, cross-media work. She expects that her work in Iceland will produce a book that incorporates poetry, correspondence, and found materials with a supplemental DVD that encompasses video and sound. She hopes that the work will be published in both Iceland and the United States.

Pollentier, whose published poetry includes appearances in several collections of Latina poetry, also expects that her immersion in such an exotic foreign language will hone her observational skills and that writing in two languages will heighten her sensitivity to language.

The Fulbright award comes as no surprise to Maxine Chernoff, poet and chair of creative writing. "Nicole makes opportunities happen for herself through her intellectually adventurous spirit. She sees possibilities everywhere and has the courage to pursue them," she said.

Fulbright Awards are given to seniors and graduate students as well as developing professionals and artists who will spend up to a year overseas. The Fulbright Program, established in 1946 through an act of Congress spearheaded by Sen. J. William Fulbright, is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. To date nearly 100,000 Americans have held Fulbright grants.

-- Denize Springer


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