Arizona State University Regents' Professor and poet Simon J. Ortiz

Regents' Professor Simon Ortiz awarded international prize for poetry

By

Peggy Coulombe

Simon Ortiz, a Regents’ Professor of English and American Indian Studies at Arizona State University, has been selected to receive the 2013 Golden Tibetan Antelope International Prize. He will be honored in China, along with Syrian poet Adonis (Ali Ahmad Said Esber), at the Qinghai Lake International Poetry Festival on Aug. 7-12.

Of the award Ortiz says, “I am truly honored and humbled to receive the Golden Tibetan Antelope Prize. As a member of the Aacqumeh hanoh – Acoma people-nation – I humbly regard this award as a gesture of honoring from one community of people to another community of people, because this act represents the respectful recognition of each other culturally, socially, spiritually and politically.”

Ortiz is a major voice in the 20th-century literary movement termed the “Native American Renaissance.” Raised on the Acoma Pueblo reservation in New Mexico, he worked in uranium mines and processing plants, joined the U.S. Army and studied chemistry before focusing on his writing. Ortiz earned an honorary doctor of letters degree in 2002 from the University of Iowa in recognition of his many academic and literary accomplishments in poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, essay and children’s literature. 

“As a poet, storyteller, orator and chronicler, I am often overcome by the power of language to form and shape thoughts, provide ideas or concepts, and to effect change in people and society,” says Ortiz. “And I am overcome by the beauty of language to change human beings so that human beings can truly appreciate the life that surrounds them and to change human society for the better.”

In 1982, he won a Pushcart Prize for his work “From Sand Creek,” and most recently his book “Going for the Rain” was published by the Tsinghua University Press, Beijing as a bilingual edition (English and Chinese). There are plans to develop a Chinese translation of a compendium of three of his earliest poetry collections, “Woven Stone,” considered by some to be his “spiritual autobiography.”

While Ortiz’ research interests have largely focused on the cultural, social and political dynamics of Indigenous peoples of North, Central and South America, his insights cut across cultural and ethnic boundaries with literary perspective as a guide. 

“The power of language resides in the beauty of spirit that comes about when we change ourselves into helpful, generous, understanding, compassionate and thoughtful human beings who benefit others,” notes Ortiz. “If I am anything as a poet, I must always try to be a human being who is helpful to others, for that also is the power of language: to encourage ourselves always to be helpful to others.”

The Qinghai Lake International Poetry Festival was founded in 2007. The international panel of judges includes poets, translators and critics. The theme of the 2013 Qinghai Lake International Poetry Festival is "The Poet's Individual Writing and Poetry's Sociality.” Ortiz travels to China to receive his award.