Nicolette Polek’s inventive, highly compressed prose uses a magnified and surreal lens to examine feelings of displacement and transformation. Her first book, a collection of short stories entitled Imaginary Museums, will be published by Soft Skull Press in January 2020. She says, “The compact stories are set in the American Midwest and Eastern Europe and depict characters who experience alienation— from their homes, families, God, and themselves. The stories are greatly inspired by my experience of being an only child of immigrants.” Polek received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.F.A. from the University of Maryland in 2019. She is currently working on a first novel, Amargosa, about women artists, imagination, and solitude, an outgrowth of her fascination with the late artist and dancer Marta Becket who created the Amargosa Opera House in Death Valley Junction. Her nominator writes, “Nicolette’s work is eccentric but not gratuitously so, tender and generous, speaking to our current political moment in unexpected ways. She is learning her craft by ear as well as by heart. She is someone whose voice I’m very grateful to have in the world.”
Polek’s Writer’s Award will allow her to continue her creative momentum following graduate school without financial worries in order to focus on this novel, and perhaps a second project about her family, Slovakia under Socialism, faith, and folklore. She is from Cleveland, Ohio, and currently lives in Maryland.