Alberto Álvaro Ríos, Arizona’s inaugural State Poet Laureate and currently Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, has been named the 2018 Shelley Award Honoree.
Rios, the author of 11 books and chapbooks of poetry, three collections of short stories, a memoir and host of the ground breaking PBS8 original production, Books & Co., will receive the award at the 37th annual Governor’s Arts Awards dinner and celebration on March 22 at the Arizona Biltmore Resort.
The award, named in honor of former Arizona Commission on the Arts Executive Director Shelley Cohn, is presented to an individual who has advanced the arts through strategic and innovative work in creating or supporting public policy beneficial to the arts in Arizona. The Shelley Award has been presented since 2005.
“Alberto Ríos’ contributions to Arizona’s arts and cultural landscape, legacy and diversity are deep and important,” said Catherine “Rusty” Foley, executive director of Arizona Citizens for the Arts, which produces the Governor’s Arts Awards Celebration. “His impact is particularly compelling when you see how he has created an understanding and appreciation for poetry throughout the state and how he integrates discussions of literature into the conversation.”
Ríos is a Regents’ Professor at Arizona State University, where he has taught for over 35 years and where he holds the further distinctions of the Katharine C. Turner Endowed Chair in English and University Professor of Letters.
Born in 1952 in Nogales, his books of poems include The Dangerous Shirt, The Theater of Night, winner of the 2007 PEN/Beyond Margins Award, along with The Smallest Muscle in the Human Body, a finalist for the National Book Award, Teodoro Luna’s Two Kisses, The Lime Orchard Woman, The Warrington Poems, Five Indiscretions, and Whispering to Fool the Wind, winner of the Walt Whitman Award. His most recent title, A Small Story About the Sky, was recently honored by inclusion in the National Endowment for the Arts Big Read initiative.
His three collections of short stories are, most recently, The Curtain of Trees, along with Pig Cookies and The Iguana Killer. His memoir about growing up on the Mexico-Arizona border-called Capirotada-won the Latino Literary Hall of Fame Award and was recently chosen as the OneBookArizona selection.
As host since 2009, On Books & Co., he provides viewers exclusive access to renowned authors and fresh faces on the literary scene, in intimate conversations with writers offering an unparalleled exploration into the heart and creative process of contemporary literature.
Recently honored with the University of Arizona Outstanding Alumnus Award, Ríos is the recipient of the Western Literature Association Distinguished Achievement Award, an Arizona Governor’s Arts Award, fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, the Walt Whitman Award, the Western States Book Award for Fiction, six Pushcart Prizes in both poetry and fiction, and inclusion in The Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry, as well as over 300 other national and international literary anthologies.
His work is regularly taught and translated, and has been adapted to dance and both classical and popular music.
The Governor’s Arts Awards are presented by Arizona Citizens for the Arts, a nonprofit citizens’ advocacy organization, in partnership with the Office of the Governor. Since 1981, more than 200 distinguished artists, individuals, arts and cultural organizations, educators and businesses have received Governor’s Arts Awards.