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ASU Piper Center announces Arizona’s inaugural poet laureate as new director

Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing taps Alberto Ríos to foster artistic exchanges, establish educational opportunities


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August 14, 2017

Arizona State University’s Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing has appointed Regents’ Professor and Arizona’s inaugural poet laureate Alberto Ríos as the new director of the center. 

For more than 30 years, Ríos has been teaching and inspiring an emerging generation of literary artists at ASU. He champions the art of writing to express the history and values of different communities. In his new appointment as director, he will continue to show the boundless potential of stories to keep cultures and common heritage alive in Arizona and across the globe.

In addition to being named director, Ríos will become the artistic director of the center and hold the Virginia G. Piper Chair in Creative Writing title. He has also served as the Katharine C. Turner Distinguished Chair in English since 2003.

Ríos will be instrumental in building connections between writers and readers, establishing educational opportunities to support literary artists, encouraging artistic exchanges with international communities and enriching the cultural environment of Arizona and the entire Southwest.

“Ríos is an unparalleled talent in the crafting of American poetry,” said Patrick Kenney, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “His poetry and literary works have positively influenced our community and have been a driving force for Arizona’s culture and heritage.” 

Ríos has authored 10 books and chapbooks of poetry, three collections of short stories and a memoir about growing up on the Mexico-Arizona border. He has also been the recipient of numerous awards, including the Western Literature Association Distinguished Achievement Award, the Arizona Governor's Arts Award, the Walt Whitman Award and the Western States Book Award for Fiction.

Ríos’ work is regularly taught, translated and included in more than 300 national and international anthologies. In 2014, he was elected to the Board of Chancellors of the Academy of American Poets.

“I’m confident with this new appointment that Ríos will continue to foster a thriving creative and literary environment at ASU following on the long and successful legacy of Professor Jewell Parker Rhodes, who was the founding director of the Virginia G. Piper Center,” said Mark Searle, the executive vice president and university provost at ASU. “His immense talent and dedication to creative writing will promote the value of the humanities generally and the Piper Center specifically for the college, university and the broader community.”

Effective immediately, Ríos will replace the center’s interim director, Matt Bell. Since February, Bell’s national acclaim and dedication to the students and local literary community has been an asset for embodying the center’s mission of serving the public through exceptional literary programs and resources.

“Bell was willing to serve as interim director on short notice, and we appreciate all of his time and efforts,” Kenney said. 

Housed in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing is the artistic and intellectual heart of a vibrant, multinational and culturally diverse world of writers. The center hosts a wide variety of literary events and programs to serve the public.

In addition, the center offers selected scholarships and fellowships for graduate students in the nationally and internationally renowned Master of Fine Arts in creative writing program.

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