UA Alumna Selected as NEA Creative Writing Fellow

From the March 2021 Desktop News | After learning to read, Dr. Jacqueline Trimble’s first impulse was to write, so at the age of six, she wrote her first piece of work: a one-paragraph autobiography. Though she talks fondly of the memory now, her accomplishments assure she has much more to add.

Trimble, who earned her master’s and PhD at UA and serves as the chair of Alabama State University’s Department of Languages and Literatures, was one of only 35 selected as a 2021 National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellow for poetry.

“It was very much a surprise,” Trimble said. “I got the call in November, and they said, ‘Congratulations!’ I thought, ‘This has to be a joke. They’ve got to be punking me.’”

With the fellowship comes $25,000, an amount Trimble hopes will allow her to take half of the summer off of work to give her the time, space, and atmosphere to write. Currently, she is writing a novel, a poetry collection, and working with a director to turn her poem, “The Language of Joy,” into a short film, among other ventures.

Though now busy with creation, Trimble has spent a majority of her career primarily teaching. Ten years ago, however, her husband could tell she was unhappy due to her lack of writing, prompting her to apply to a writing workshop in Cape Cod. Suddenly, she was back writing poetry.

“It’s really an interesting time for me, having started another career, which I consider my writing career, after 50,” Trimble said. “That’s the great thing about being a writer. You just keep doing it. As long as the brain is functioning, you can keep writing.”

Her first poetry collection, American Happiness, came out in 2016, and she has since explored many other forms of writing, including writing episodes for a South African television show.

“I’m not wed to genre because I think writing is writing,” Trimble said. “Writing is about observation, understanding and clarifying, and it helps me understand the world.”

Trimble writes what she knows, with poems about her husband and sons (“A Woman Cohabitates with Three Men”), her mother (“The Language of Joy”), and social justice (“How to Survive as a Black Woman Everywhere in America Including the Deep South”). She describes herself as a Southern writer, fascinated with the irony and absurdity of being able to stand where Martin Luther King, Jr. did, look up and see where Jefferson Davis took his oath of office or George Wallace strategized in her hometown of Montgomery.

“I grew up on West Jefferson Davis Avenue, and the cross street for West Jeff Davis Avenue is Rosa Parks Avenue. Where else can you live at the cross section of Jefferson Davis and Rosa Parks?” Trimble said. “To me, that’s writing gold. I look out my window, and I write what I see.”

While most of her colleagues are thinking about retirement, Trimble can only think about the future and all of the works she has yet to produce.

“I would like to leave a body of all kinds of work: essays, television shows, novels, books of poetry,” Trimble said. “Books and stories have given me so much pleasure my entire life. They’re significant in the world, because there’s something about them that lasts past our lifetimes and generations. My goal is to produce those.”