Monday, November 28, 2011

Graduate Writing Awards--Dig It!

Congrats to everyone--the judges all complained about how hard this was!

The FRANK WATERS FICTION AWARD was judged this year by José de Piérola, the author of Sur y Norte (2008), a short story collection about immigrants at both sides of the border; El camino de regreso (2007), a novel that explores the years of political violence in Peru during the 1980s and 1990s; Shatranj: El juego de los reyes (2005), a novel published simultaneously in Colombia and Peru; and Un beso de invierno (2001), winner of the Short Novel Prize awarded by the Reserve Bank of Peru. He teaches at the University of Texas at El Paso.

For the Frank Waters Fiction Award, the winner is Phillip Hurst with “I Want You Back” from the novel The Castaways.José de Piérola states: “Written in a mature, precise voice, the opening chapter of this novel keeps a steady pace which increasingly reveals Ralph Harrison, the intriguing newspaperman born ‘too late for his own good.’ Towards the end of the chapter, we begin to understand why this Emerson-quoting newspaperman feels like an ‘exile.’ Hurst makes us want to keep reading, having already planted important questions about human relationships and personal identity in our mind.”

Melanie Sweeney Bowen was awarded Second Prize with “Old Habits.” The judge, José de Piérola comments, “This story, the precise rendering of a young man’s inability to cope with the loss of his best friend, unravels with a deft storyteller’s skill. Bowen carefully shows us that Tim’s mourning, even though he might not be completely aware of it, is also a process of growing up and entering adulthood. Bowen’s prose faces each moment with honesty, but selects only details that reveal her characters and explores her themes without forgetting her readers.”

Joshua Bowen was awarded Third Prize with “If I Should Cast Off This Tattered Coat.” José de Piérola observes that “With a title that evokes Gogol’s ‘The Overcoat,’ considered one of the foundational short-stories of the nineteenth century, this experimental short story challenges the reader to be an engaged, active participant that gradually ‘assembles’ the pieces of the puzzle, reaching to more than one possible interpretation. Bowen invites us to be part of the process in which, as Barthes would have put it, the work becomes text.”

Honorable Mention went to the following:

  • Christopher Rosenbluth, “The Time Before This”
  • Robert Mills, “The Youth and Beauty Brigade”
  • Camille Acker, “Who We Are”


THE KEITH WILSON/JOSEPH SAMOZA POETRY PRIZE was judged this year by poet Joni Wallace, author of Blinking Ephemeral Valentine, winner of the 2009 Four Way Books Levis Prize in Poetry. She lives in Tucson, Arizona.

The winner of the Keith Wilson/Joseph Samoza Poetry Prize is Nathan Taylor. Joni Wallace comments that “Taylor’s poems feel like private conversations, rich in language and obsession, a speaker whispering behind a door only slightly ajar. I cannot help but lean in to the keyhole or to put my ear against the drywall to hear it. And it’s worth the effort. Indeed, as Taylor himself says, these poems work as ‘wind in a silent shoebox.’ At others times, they seem ‘desire which chases desire’s tale.’ Filled with things and voices Americana (chocolate malts, cafeterias, road trips; ‘Godamnit do not lose that chicken’), endlessly questioning (‘They said Preston is dead, and did I, I did. /Yes, I think it was me. I.’), echoing and imitating their own beautiful sounds (‘heart of a horse’ immediately becoming it’s sound combination ‘hearse’), Taylor’s work addresses that state of being and not being simultaneously. Listen: ‘I can see myself leave myself/blue flux of desire going forward’ or ‘My trip across the country was fueled/ by the idea that when we arrived we would stuff/ our mouths with cigarettes and pour gin /into the empty sockets of our eyes. And gasoline /We would so happy burning on the inside.’ Taylor writes ‘just north of erasure,’ and I find his voice filled with elegance and assured grittiness. ‘I will print my next book on the pages of hotel stationery,’ he promises. I, for one, will be waiting for this.”

Jennifer Eldridge was awarded Second Prize. The judge’s citation states: “I’m struck by Eldridge’s ability to deconstruct her poems even as she is constructing them. Autumnal in nature, her poetics seem indirectly related to those of imagist and objectivist poetry. It’s a poetry where ‘Everything is thinning away/ anxious to encounter its plain self.’ And she makes good on that promise, whether she is both making and taking apart a moth (‘The capsule of the head crunches under/my fingertips,’ ‘I’ve seen all/ of you/honest’) or raising ax to the sky, herself the ax, ultimately sky itself the ax and the axed (‘sky sky sky sky sky /could the ax frac-ture sky sky/diminished body’). Eldridge works carefully with silence and sound. There’s an echolocation here, a modality understood but not rationally so. I love her brief lines and the frequencies she inhabits.”

Third Prize was awarded to Michael Floydd Elliott. Joni Wallace observes, “I appreciate this poet’s use of story and place and his appropriation of form in service of both. In a short series of ‘Desert(ed) Sonnets’ Elliott warns us to ‘forget this place of tumbling moon-/light districts distinct to no one’ while at the same time engaging in an archaeological dig of place and self. Elliott works the subterranean levels, creating lists of necessaries in the form of emergency supply kits. While his loose sonnets engage such things as ‘grandmas/pregnant with aspirin,’ ‘sun-leached warm asphalt’ and ‘mastodon bone with a spear head embedded in it,’ the accompanying (footnoted) supply kits serve as anti-sonnets, equally delightful and surprising, but moments of anti-lyric moving between such things as ‘Spear Guns’ to ‘Draw String from Steve’s Shorts’ to ‘Superglue’ to ‘Tylenol 500 mg’ to ‘Duck Ta[pe]’ to ‘You, Me, & a Water Ski.’ I admire Elliott’s off-kilter sensibility, his experimentation and willingness to live there, all the while close to home.”

Honorable Mentions for the Keith Wilson/Joseph Samoza Poetry Prize are the following:

  • Jeff Pickell, whose poems Joni Wallace finds to “show, yes, a small world, but also one made large with gems of thingness: ice cream trucks, poodles, piers and cats named Dinky. Here’s a poet who believes, and shows us again, and shows us slant: no ideas but in things. Beautifully compressed, sparkling, these poems are places to inhabit.”
  • Wallace states that “Megan Wong’s ‘On the Dynamisms of Growing Up Young’ feels just like a synthesis of bubbles – ‘the ones that pop each time I ride shotgun/in the red Grand Am.’ I am captivated by her buoyance and reflection."
  • Jeanine Deibel, Wallace observes, writes poems with “short lines— encompassing a ‘dog/that flew into a bun,’ the ‘fishes/in your head’ and a speaker who swallows ‘all the eggs/feeling guilty about the birds’— that are odd delights, like flashes of light in a darkened hallway.”


The winner of the Ruth Scott Academy of American Poets Prize, also judged by poet Joni Wallace, is Adam Crittenden. Wallace states, “Ambitious and polished, wearing their syntax and diction and allusions like favorite shirts, Crittenden addresses myth and modern culture, moving deftly into the territory meaning-making itself. Nature says ‘see or shut your eyes,’ he tells us. He then makes us see and therefore become the trees, leaves, shadows, and children who will come after us. Ultimately I trust this voice as it projects the mind in movement, stasis, death and empire, creating for each state the successive shadows of the individual as ‘green boisterous cloud,’ ‘purple veil,’ ‘green mist.’ Crittenden’s voice is clear and confident, at ease with the greatest complexities.”

EVERYONE is invited to an awards event is scheduled for Friday, December 2, 11:30-1:00, 
in the Emerson Room. It’s also a chance to celebrate the end of the semester. And of course, 
there will be ample amounts of food!

No comments:

Post a Comment