Evie Shockley, a professor of English at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, was named a Pulitzer Prize finalist for poetry this week.
The Pulitzer board called her latest book, “semiautomatic,” a “brilliant leap of faith into the echoing abyss of language, part rap, part rant, part slam, part performance art, that leaves the reader unsettled, challenged – and bettered – by the poet’s words.”
Shockley co-directs the Rutgers English Diversity Institute, which encourages students from underrepresented cultural, economic and ethnic backgrounds to pursue academic careers.
She said her Pulitzer finalist book came together around the Black Lives Matter movement and the violence against black people that ignited the movement. “What we were seeing was maybe not that things were getting worse, but how bad they had been all along,” she said.
The book reflects Shockley’s belief that art can sustain people, and help people think through possible solutions and imagine change. “If we don’t hope, we can’t create change,” Shockley said. “Hope is not optional.”