Brooklyn College English Professor Ben Lerner has received the prestigious MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship. The fellowship celebrates the creative potential of individuals by providing unrestricted funds to those “who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction.” Lerner, a novelist, poet and critic, is one of 24 MacArthur fellows and is the only awardee from the City University of New York (CUNY).

The MacArthur Foundation describes Lerner as “transcending conventional distinctions of genre and style in a body of work that constitutes an extended meditation on how to capture our contemporary moment.”

“This honor is a fitting recognition of the high level of scholarship and dedication to craft that Ben has continually demonstrated,” says Brooklyn College President Karen L. Gould. “The example that he has set will also positively impact Brooklyn College students.”

Lerner is the author of three books of poetry: The Lichtenberg Figures (2004), Angle of Yaw (2006), and Mean Free Path (2010), all published by Copper Canyon Press. His poetry has been translated into German, Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese and his collected poems to date will be issued in a single volume by Granta (UK) in 2017. He is the author of several chapbooks and limited edition volumes, including a recent collaboration with the German photographer Thomas Demand, entitled Blossom (Mack Books).

Lerner has been a finalist for the National Book Award in poetry, a Fulbright Scholar in Spain, a Howard Foundation Fellow, and a Guggenheim Fellow. In 2011 he became the first American to win the Preis der Stadt Münster für Internationale Poesie for the German translation of The Lichtenberg Figures. He is currently the youngest poet included in the Norton Anthology of Postmodern Poetry.

Leaving the Atocha Station (Coffee House, 2011), Lerner’s first novel, won The Believer Book Award and was named one of the best books of the year by The New Yorker, The Guardian, The New Statesman, The Boston Globe, The Wall Street Journal, and The New Republic, among other publications. His second novel, 10:04 (FSG, 2014), was named a book of the year by The Atlantic, The Guardian, The New York Times, The New Yorker, NPR, and The San Francisco Chronicle.

“I’m humbled and more than a little surprised,” says the Topeka, Kansas native. “I think of the Fellowship as a challenge—in the most generous form imaginable—to do more and more adventurous work.”

The MacArthur Fellows Program is intended to encourage people of outstanding talent to pursue their own creative, intellectual, and professional inclinations. The fellowship is a “no strings attached” award in support of people, not projects. Each fellowship comes with a stipend of $625,000 to the recipient, paid out in equal quarterly installments over five years.

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation supports creative people and effective institutions committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. MacArthur is one of the nation’s largest independent foundations. Through the support it provides, the Foundation fosters the development of knowledge, nurtures individual creativity, strengthens institutions, helps improve public policy, and provides information to the public, primarily through support for public interest media.

Among Brooklyn College’s other MacArthur Fellows are English Professor Dinaw Mengestu.