Hunter Senior Poet Tom Sleigh has won the inaugural John Updike Award from American Academy of Arts and Letters. The $20,000 prize, given to an outstanding writer in mid-career, comes just three years after Sleigh took home the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, one of the world’s most prestigious and lucrative poetry prizes. The Academy has also selected Hunter Distinguished Lecturer Colum McCann, winner of the 2009 National Book Award for Fiction, as one of this year’s recipients of its coveted Arts and Letters Awards in Literature. The award, honoring exceptional accomplishment in any literary genre, comes with a $7,500 prize.
Both awards will be presented at the Academy’s annual Ceremonial in May.
The American Academy of Arts and Letters was established in 1898 to “foster, assist, and sustain an interest in literature, music, and the fine arts.” Election to the Academy is considered the highest formal recognition of artistic merit in this country. Founding members include William Merritt Chase, Kenyon Cox, Daniel Chester French, Childe Hassam, Henry James, Theodore Roosevelt, Elihu Vedder, and Woodrow Wilson. The Academy is currently comprised of 250 of America’s leading voices in the fields of art, architecture, literature, and music.