Annual Corrington Award for Literary Excellence to be presented at Centenary October 23

SHREVEPORT, LA — Essayist and poet Aimee Nezhukumatathil will receive the 2023 John William Corrington Award for Literary Excellence, presented annually by the Centenary College English Department, in a ceremony on October 23. The 2023 Corrington Award celebration begins at 6:30 p.m. in Anderson Auditorium at Centenary’s Hurley School of Music. Nezhukumatathil will give a reading during the event, which is free and open to the public. A live stream of the Corrington Award ceremony will also be available on Centenary’s Facebook page at

“The Corrington Award provides our community with the extraordinary opportunity to engage with a celebrated author,” said Dr. Chrissy Martin, assistant professor of English and a member of the Corrington Award selection committee. “Our goal is for the Corrington Award to be a moment in which the campus and community can think through ideas together. At Centenary, we are proud to be a part of Shreveport’s thriving art community and hope members of the community will join us as we celebrate writing, art, and wonder.”

Nezhukumatathil is the author of a book of nature essays, World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, & Other Astonishments, which was named a finalist for the Kirkus Prize in non-fiction, and four award-winning poetry collections, most recently, Oceanic. Awards for her writing include fellowships from the Mississippi Arts Council, Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Award for poetry, National Endowment of the Arts, and the Guggenheim Foundation. Her writing has appeared in NYTimes Magazine, ESPN, and Best American Poetry. She is professor of English and Creative Writing in the University of Mississippi’s MFA program.

“We chose to honor Nezhukumatathil with the Corrington Award this year because her books are not only brilliant, but also provide a great opportunity for the entire campus to come together to read, write, and think about wonder,” explained Martin. “Nezhukumatathil’s books center on slowing down and paying attention to the natural world and the ways that can teach us connection, survival, and joy. I believe we are all coming from the isolation of COVID in search of human connection and light, so we have worked hard to make this year’s Corrington a community event where we can share in joy together.”

World of Wonders (Milkweed Press, 2020), Nezhukumatathil’s first nonfiction book, is an illustrated collection of nature essays told in the context of her unusual childhood growing up on the grounds of mental institutions in rural America and navigating the parent-push towards science while finding herself drawn toward language—all unfolding through detailed and delightful observations about the oddities and fascinations of our planet.

The book is a common reading text for Centenary’s Trek 115 classes this semester, and students will have the opportunity to discuss it with Nezhukumatathil during her visit to campus to receive the Corrington Award. Classes across campus, including those in English, education, and biology, will be reading and writing about Nezhukumatathil's books. Themes from World of Wonders will be the subject of several campus chapel services leading up to Nezhukumatathil's visit, and an exhibit at Centenary’s Meadows Museum of Art, Nature’s Wonders, takes its inspiration from the 2023 Corrington honoree.

World of Wonders is a great mentor text for students working to develop a more expansive relationship to knowledge,” said Dr. Rachel Johnson, director of Centenary’s Center for Teaching and Learning. “Nezhukumatathil demonstrates how paying close attention, being curious, and opening oneself to new experiences helps us better understand ourselves and our world. She draws on a variety of ways of knowing to craft essays that provoke empathy and understanding. The unique biology of octopus tentacles figures just as prominently as her young son’s Halloween costume. She models questioning and discovery alongside joy and excitement. Her writing is discerning, thoughtful, creative, and kind. I’m excited for our students to learn firsthand from Nezhukumatathil about how developing a writing (and thinking) practice helps us explore who we are and want to be.”

The John William Corrington Award for Literary Excellence is presented annually by the Department of English at Centenary on behalf of the Centenary student body and faculty to an established, critically-acknowledged writer. The award honors a Centenary alumnus and English major, Bill Corrington (1932-1988), who was variously an English professor, an attorney in private practice, and, with his wife, Joyce, the head writer for several television series, including Search for Tomorrow and General Hospital. A prolific poet, he also published four novels, two short novels, and three collections of short stories.

In 1991 Eudora Welty became the first recipient of the Corrington Award when she read her short story "A Worn Path" at Centenary's spring Commencement. The Award takes the form of a bronze medal designed by the internationally-exhibited Louisiana sculptor Clyde Connell. The medal depicts two primitive figures, one of them slightly in front of the other, carrying a long object. A presentation box, hand-made by a local craftsperson, accompanies the medal. For more information on the Corrington Award and a full list of past winners, visit

Two writing contests for students are debuting this year in conjunction with the Corrington Award. The Corrington Excellence in Freshman Writing Essay Contest, sponsored by the Centenary Learning Commons and the First-Year Program, invites essays from first-year students inspired by Nezhukumatathil’s work. The Corrington Creative Writing Award, open to all Centenary students, focuses on poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, or hybrid work inspired by themes found in Nezhukumatathil’s writing. The contests feature cash prizes totaling $1,150 as well as opportunities for publication.

The annual Corrington Award and the student writing contests are generously underwritten by the Attaway Professorships in Civic Culture Program. More information about the 2023 Corrington Award is available at

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