Since 1956, I have lived in Southern Arizona where I am a Regents Professor (emeritus) of English at the University of Arizona. I have been director of the Creative Writing Program and the University of Arizona Poetry Center, a Faculty Fellow, and a Flinn Scholar mentor. From 1980 to 1982, I was one of the three judges of the Lamont Poetry Award of the Academy of American Poets. I served two terms as president of the Associated Writing Programs (AWP) and was National Honorary Chancellor of the National Federation of State Poetry Societies. In 1991, my wife, Lois Shelton, and I were joint recipients of the Governor’s Award for support of the arts in Arizona. In 2000, I received a $100,000 Completion Grant from the Lannan Foundation. In 2006, I received the University of Arizona's Henry and Phyllis Koffler Prize for outstanding accomplishment in teaching, and, with my wife Lois, the Arizona Book Festival's inagural Arizona Literary Treasure Award. Governor Janet Napolitano proclaimed April 22, 2006, "Richard Shelton Day" to recognize my accomplishments as a writer, my service to the Poetry Center and the University, and my mentorship of fledgling writers both inside and outside the University.
In The Saturday Review, critic Alastair Reid said that my poetry "...stands out in its stark, understated ironies. Shelton is a poet of the Southwest and his language is as dry and bony as his desert landscape...the sharp economy of his line, his beautiful equilibrium of manner and matter, already make him an important poet."
My first book, The Tattooed Desert, won the International Poetry Forum's United States Award in 1970. My fourth book, The Bus to Veracruz, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. I have received two National Endowment for the Arts Writer’s Fellowships (one in poetry and one in nonfiction) and three Borestone Mountain Awards, including First Award in Borestone Mountain’s Best Poems of 1971. In all, I have published twelve books or chapbooks of poetry, and my poems and essays have appeared in more than 200 magazines and literary journals, including The New Yorker, Poetry, Harper’s, The Atlantic, The Paris Review, Kayak, The American Poetry Review, and The Antioch Review, and have been translated into Spanish, French, Swedish, Polish and Japanese. National Public Radio and the British Broadcasting Corporation have featured my work, and I have read at colleges and universities throughout the country. American composers have set many of my poems to music.
My first book of creative nonfiction, Going Back to Bisbee, won the Western States Book Award in 1992 and was recently honored as a "OneBook Arizona." The book has sold nearly 50,000 copies and is in its 12th printing at the University of Arizona Press. In October 2007, the Press will release my second book of nonfiction, Crossing the Yard.
In 1974, I established, under the auspices of the Arizona Commission on the Arts, a Creative Writer’s Workshop at the Arizona State Prison. Many books of poetry and prose by the men in that workshop have been published, including the anthology Do Not Go Gentle. Since 1991, the workshop has been supported by grants from the Lannan Foundation. Past and present members of the workshop continue to publish poetry and prose in dozens of journals and have also published books with, most recently, Mercury House, the University of Arkansas Press, and the University of Arzona Press.