Spanish Professor to Receive International Poetry Award

Posted: June 27, 2011 at 1:03 am, Last Updated: July 1, 2011 at 8:12 am

By Dave Andrews

Rei Berroa. Photo courtesy of Rei Berroa

The City of Trieste, Italy, will present Rei Berroa, professor of modern and classical languages, with this year’s International Poetry Award. The award ceremony will be held on Dec. 2 in the historic Café Tommaseo in Trieste.

The International Poetry Award is an honor that has been given to highly esteemed writers from around the world for each of the past 12 years in recognition of his or her lifetime achievement. Some of the poets who have received this award are Nobel Prize candidates, including Justo Jorge Padron (Spain, 1999), Alvaro Mutis (Colombia, 2000) and Mateja Matevski (Macedonia, 2001).

Berroa, a native of the Dominican Republic, is the author of more than 25 books of poetry, anthologies, translations and literary criticism. He has not only devoted his life to the art of poetry, but also to music, teaching and community service.

Berroa was announced as the award winner last month to allow translators enough time to translate his poetry into Italian before the Dec. 2 ceremony.

“I was speechless when the award representative called me to tell me that I was this year’s recipient,” says Berroa, who has taught Spanish literature and literary criticism at Mason since 1984. “It means a great deal to me that my work will be translated into Italian and will now be published all over the country. This is a matter of great celebration for me and my family, friends and colleagues.”

“This is truly a great honor for Rei, whose writings have received increasing recognition over the course of his career, especially in recent years,” says Julie Christensen, chair of the Department of Modern and Classical Languages.

The coastline of Trieste, Italy, where the International Poetry Prize is presented.

“The award speaks to the quality of his work, and it’s a reminder of how influential his poetry has become. This is also especially meaningful for our students who have the opportunity to be taught by an internationally recognized poet,” Christensen adds.

In addition to the award recognition, the recipient also receives more than $1,700 in prize money, though Berroa says that he is more excited by the fact that a “commoner” like himself would be recognized in such a way.

“When I was told that I would be the poet receiving this award for 2011, I pinched myself to see if I was dreaming,” Berroa says.

He has been recognized several times throughout his career for various achievements, including a “Médaille de Vermeil” from the Academy of Arts, Sciences, and Letters of Paris in May 2009. He also received the George Mason University Advisor of the Year Award in 2002 for his work on the Mason journal Hispanic Culture Review.

Berroa has participated in numerous international poetry festivals around the world. He has also been literary advisor to the theater company Teatro de la Luna, based in Arlington, Va., since it was founded in 1991. And since 2001, he has coordinated an annual “Poetry Marathon” at various venues, including the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

Previous winners of the International Poetry Award of Trieste include:

2002 Oliver Friggieri (Malta)

2003 Arturo Corcuera (Perù)

2004 Amadou Lamine Sall (Senegal)

2005 Miguel Barnet (Cuba)

2006 Tahar Ben Jelloun (Marruecos)

2007 Omar Lara (Chile)

2008 Goncalo Tavares (Portugal)

2009 Alda Merini (Italy)

2010 Ion Deaconescu (Romania)



Write to mediarel at