Distinguished Scholar Award: Christina Pugh, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

A woman poses for a photo with a blue backdrop
Christina Pugh

Christina Pugh began writing poetry as a child and, she said, “basically never stopped.”  

This early love led her years later to publish five books of poetry and numerous essays and articles on poetry and poetics. 

“For me, writing is just an essential component of being alive and a way of being my best self. It’s my contribution to the world and the way I reach out to others, as readers,” said Pugh, an English professor at UIC.

Pugh’s works have earned her a Guggenheim fellowship in poetry, the Poetry Society of America’s Lucille Medwick Memorial Award (for poetry on a humanitarian theme), the Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowship from Poetry magazine, a fellowship from the Illinois Arts Council, and the Grolier Poetry Prize. She’s also won UIC’s Graduate Mentoring Award, a Teaching Recognition Award, a UIC Institute for the Humanities Faculty Fellowship, and an Award for Creative Activities in 2022. 

Her fifth poetry book, “Stardust Media,” won the Juniper Prize and focused on technologies spanning from ancient times to the present and the human role in those technologies. In October, her latest book of poetry, “The Right Hand,” will be published by Tupelo Press. The first half of the book deals with chronic pain, she said, and the second half focuses on Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s 15th-century sculpture “The Ecstasy of St. Teresa,” depicting the saint pierced by an angel’s arrow of divine love. 

“My poetry is really an ongoing inquiry about how to keep the most essential aspects of our humanness alive, especially our relationships with language and with all of our senses,” Pugh said. “I believe that poetic thinking, pursued through the creation of lines and stanzas, gives us access to areas of consciousness that we wouldn’t have otherwise.” 

In addition to her poetry, in March, she published a book of literary essays, “Ghosts and the Overplus: Reading Poetry in the Twenty-First Century.” It contains 15 years of her published essays on poetry and poetics, including historical poets such as Emily Dickinson and contemporary poets, and more personal essays. She said her interest in how poetry from the past still lives on today is the focus. 

The opportunity to work with both graduate and undergraduate students at UIC is foundational to her writing, she said. She also applauded UIC for allowing faculty to undertake outside fellowships, which has enabled travel that has inspired multiple works.

“I believe UIC wants its faculty to excel not only in teaching but also in research or creative achievements,” Pugh said. 

Watch Pugh’s 3-minute talk on this research, delivered at SparkTalks, UIC’s take on faculty lightning talks.

Read about other recipients of the 2023 Researcher, Scholar and Inventor of the Year awards this week on UIC today, with new profiles posted each day. On April 22, you’ll find coverage on UIC today from the awards ceremony.

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