Two Seattle Residents Receive MacArthur Foundation Genius Grants

Two people could never represent the full extent of our city’s creativity and intelligence, but the MacArthur Foundation definitely covered some serious intellectual ground when it included Trevor Bedford and Don Mee Choi on its list of grant recipients ” awesome ”of 2021.

Bedford, a computer virologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, rose to prominence during the coronavirus pandemic because his professional interests overlap with those of almost everyone these days. Early on, he warned his colleagues that we might be dealing with another “1918” and began identifying the viral strains long before people knew how to worry about Delta and Lambda. “Through its rigorous and timely analysis of evolutionary dynamics and its commitment to creating open source and collaborative tools,” observes the foundation, “Bedford improves our collective ability to detect the emergence of new viruses and respond to disease outbreaks. Infectious diseases. A little important.

Bedford developed a huge hit on Science Twitter, where he shared his appreciation for the $ 625,000 unconditional grant that is paid over five years. “I am honored and completely overwhelmed by the recognition… Flexible funding with multi-year commitment is the dream of the professional scientist and I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity,” he said. tweeted. “

Many members of Seattle’s thriving scientific community will certainly be envious of this freedom, as will the city’s many poets and creators when they learn of Choi’s coveted prize. Or, more likely, they’ll just be delighted with what someone of the talented Seoul-born poet and translator can do with the scarce resources at their disposal.

Last year, the last collection of the poet and translator, DMZ Colony, won the National Book Award for Poetry. She became the first Seattleite to achieve this honor since Theodore Roethke in 1965. Now, she will add a “genius” grant to her loot. (Choi reports that she is “voiceless.”)

Calling for his examination of colonialism, DMZ Colony, a simple volume of poetry seems insufficient. As our former art editor Stefan Milne wrote: “Throughout the books, she disrupts the look and sound of a ‘normal’ poetry collection. You won’t find nice personal sayings scrolling through the pages. , drawings, prose, quotation (Roland Barthes, Édouard Glissant), transcribed interview, imagined monologues which appear in Korean and English, and the heartbreaking poetics of Samuel Beckett. “

On its website, the MacArthur Foundation says it seeks “exceptional creativity” and “promises of significant future advances based on a record of significant achievement” in selecting fellows. The foundation could hardly have done better than choosing Choi, or Bedford, by those standards.

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