Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Benjamin Alire Sáenz is a poet, novelist, painter, and writer of children’s books. He is the author of Dreaming the End of War (Copper Canyon Press, 2006), and The Book of What Remains (Copper Canyon Press, 2010). He was born in a small farming community outside of Las Cruces, New Mexico, in 1954, the fourth of seven children. He entered St. Thomas Theological Seminary in Denver, Colorado, in 1972. From 1977 to 1981, he attended the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium. He was ordained a Catholic priest for the Diocese of El Paso, Texas, in 1981. In 1984 he left the priesthood and began to pursue a literary career in earnest. Eventually he returned to school and received an MA in creative writing at the University of Texas at El Paso. He received a fellowship at the University of Iowa to pursue a PhD in American literature—but his studies at Iowa were interrupted when he received a Wallace Stegner fellowship at Stanford University. He spent two years as a Stegner Fellow and was able to complete his first two books, one a collection of poetry, Calendar of Dust, and the other a collection of short stories, Flowers for the Broken. He continued his PhD studies at Stanford University but returned to the border to teach at UT El Paso before completing his PhD. He is currently working on a new book of poems, and on a series of paintings entitled Words on Paper.

Awards and Honors

Southwest Book Award, 1996

Lannan Literary Fellowship, 1993

American Book Award, 1992