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Transylvania graduate earns Al Smith Fellowship for poetry

LEXINGTON, Ky.—Affrilachian poet and 2003 Transylvania University graduate Bianca Spriggs has received a 2012 Kentucky Arts Council Al Smith Individual Artist Fellowship for excellence and creativity.

The fellowship awards are named after retired Kentucky journalist Al Smith, who is a past arts council board chair. The program recognizes and supports Kentucky artists producing high-quality work. Artists can apply for the fellowship just once, and Spriggs was chosen along with eight other literary artists and one composer from a pool of 56 applicants.

The award also comes with $7,500 that is unrestricted for any use. Spriggs will use hers to travel and present her poetry and her recent short film Waterbody, which was adapted from one of her poems about a woman discovering a sickly mermaid and nursing her back to health. She will be featured at Mermaids and Merwomen in Black Folklore, an exhibition and festival in Charleston, S.C. in September, and in October she will travel to New York City to read at the Nuyorican Café and The New School. She hopes both trips will further her exposure as a poet.

“The fellowship allows me to travel and get a chance to hit a couple new places,” Spriggs said. “I can show my work, and I can represent Kentucky around the country.”

Spriggs graduated from Transylvania with a history degree and studio art minor, and she earned an M.A. in English from the University of Kentucky, where she is currently enrolled in the doctoral program for creative writing. She was a visiting writer and instructor in Foundations of the Liberal Arts at Transylvania from 2008-09 and was named one of the Top 30 Performance Poets by TheRoot.com and is a Pushcart Prize nominee.

Her latest collection of poetry is How Swallowtails Become Dragons, published by Accent Publishing.  She created “The Swallowtail Project,” a creative writing workshop dedicated to the women inmates at the Federal Prison Camp, and she is creator and artistic director of the Kentucky Women Writers Conference’s annual Gypsy Poetry Slam.

Spriggs was the keynote speaker at Transylvania’s commencement ceremony in May. She gave a unique commencement address, presenting a poetry reading accompanied by graduating senior Caleb Ritchie on keyboard.

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