University of New Mexico Department of Communication & Journalism graduate student and author Hakim Bellamy won the Tillie Olsen Award for Creative Writing from the Working Class Studies Association for his debut poetry collection, SWEAR, published by West End Press.
Published in 2013, SWEAR became the record of Bellamy’s prolific early writing and performance career. This collection of 23 poems addresses issues important to our day and Bellamy’s work— politics, work and art—as it ruminates on economic injustice then flows onto odes to hip hop and other art forms of inspiration to the
In each section —“Citizens United,” “Work” and “Letter to Hip Hop”—society and the artist are at the forefront. Bellamy moves from a free-thinking attitude of deliverance to a provocative new space where the reader can reflect on the poet’s inquisition of the nation’s one percent, on working class life in urban and rural America, and on the transcendent value of hip hop as one of our country’s top exports and global contributions.
Bellamy, who is coming off a two-year term as Albuquerque’s inaugural city poet laureate, said, “It is quite an honor to have Tillie Olsen's name in front of mine. She is a giant."
West End Press publisher John Crawford notes that The Press last won the Olsen Award in 2010 for Jen Vernon’s poetry collection, ROCK CANDY.
“This is a special pleasure to me, because I knew Tillie, and I have belonged to the Working Class Studies Association for years,” Crawford said. “I want thank Hakim for his brilliance and clarity and the WCSA for their good judgment."
The Tillie Olsen Award for Creative Writing honors published books of poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction and other genres. According to the Working Class Studies Association, nominations should be composed “of excellent work that provides insightful and engaging representations of working-class life and culture; addresses issues related to the working class; and highlights the voices, experiences and perspectives of working-class people.”
One judge said of SWEAR, “Bellamy’s depiction of the class divide is a punch in the gut.” Another commented, “What struck me about this selection was the strong and uncompromising voice of this poet. These are poems that directly confront the social conditions and spit out rebellion.”