Sunday, May 13, 2012

Winners of the Jacobs Prize Announced

Adam Crittenden, MFA Creative Writing (Poetry) '12

Melanie Sweeney Bowen, MFA Creative Writing (Fiction) '12

The winners of the 2012 Jacobs Prize are

For Poetry: 

Empire Mind 
by Adam Crittenden

For Fiction: 
People We Will Let in the Fortress 
by Melanie Sweeney Bowen

Kevin McIlvoy was the judge. Below are his comments on these outstanding manuscripts:

People We Will Let in the Fortress by Melanie Sweeney Bowen

In these extraordinary pages from a linked book of stories, the author utterly transports the reader into the protagonist’s processes of conscience.  Fiction only rarely goes this distance in portraying how far inward a person must travel to truly feel the very ground of her heart, how far outward to recognize the figure of another’s ways of being.  These are short stories but they have novelistic scale, and it is particularly exciting to know that they are part of a large project reaching deeply into the mysteries of forgiveness and self-forgiveness, of losing trust and regaining it, of deliberately holding back the secret self and of offering it with impulsive loving compassion. The reader cannot hold back from rereading the wise and evocative passages of the two stories, “Earth to Nashville” and “People We Will Let in the Fortress.”  Here is one example (from “People We Will Let in the Fortress”) of how this masterful storyteller invites the reader to intimately experience the clear and confounding psychological crises of the characters: 

If there was anything she knew with certainty in this world, it was that the bad things never came on when you expected them, but rather when you couldn’t possibly have prepared. They felt deeply personal, yet at the same time reminded you of your irrelevance, how utterly random your brushes with loss and pain. Unlike her, she knew Oliver believed everything happened to him. Nothing felt irrelevant. In some ways, this perspective could make things easier; you could always wind your way back to some choice, some slip that set everything else in motion, and bypass the why-me questioning that plagued others. But it also made the world quite lonely, even cruel. If everything originated in some personal action or desire, then there was no escaping yourself. 

There is no doubt: People We Will Let in the Fortress will be a great book.

Empire Mind 
by Adam Crittenden

The poems in Empire Mind are tolling poems: from a steely distance they toll warning; from a dreamlike condition, they toll nightmare; from a creepy sense of the comic, they toll pain.  They call to mind Stephen Dunn’s “Loves” in which the ‘loving’ speaker of the poem invokes “church bells ringing stasis, stasis.” There is an out-of-body voice in these disturbing contemplations of this “garbage island,” of this ‘machine kingdom’ that is our violated planet.  The testament of the poems is of individuals and groups who have been shocked past responsiveness and reaction, have been buried alive and must speak to themselves from within the festering heap, from within the crusher (“Recycle, Reuse, Reduce, and Close the Lid”).  Reading “Temporal,” one feels the despair of the speaker who has been made mute by the torpor of the earth’s human population and has also become addicted to it: “If we study the past, then / we can better destroy each other / in the present.”  In the terrifying poem “The Machine Machine” the reader is given the facts by a speaker calculating the absurd “position” one might acquire in this doomed kingdom: “The Machine Machine is a machine / that eats maggots like me for lunch, / not breakfast. Breakfast maggots are different. // Those maggots are maggots / that wish they could trade in their animal cells / for a few good circuits.”   

The writer of Empire Mind has not flinched; in each poem, the result is a powerful fullness of horror. 

Thanks to all of you who submitted this year--it was a very competitive pool. And our thanks to Kevin McIlvoy for his efforts in supporting the endowment and carefully reading and considering the submissions. The winners will receive $500 each for the award. 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Another Semester of Exciting Readings Ends

We thank everyone-- our readers, our graduating MFA students, our audiences, and the La Soc staff, for a fantastic year of readings. Below are images from the last three reading events. 

Poet Jon Davis read on April 13, 2012.  He is the author of three chapbooks and three full-length collections of poetry. The Bloomsbury Reviewsaid of his collection Preliminary Report: "This is one of the best books of poetry to appear this year." He has received numerous awards for his poetry, including a Lannan Literary Award, two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, and the I.B. Lavan Younger Poets Award from the Academy of America Poets. For the past twenty years, he has been a professor of Creative Writing at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Jon Davis becomes his alter ego on stage: Chuck Calabrese.

Camille Acker, MFA (Fiction) '12, reading on April 13.
Kit McIlroy read on April 20, 2012. He is the author of a short story collection All My Relations, winner of the 1994 Flannery O'Connor Award, and his stories have been anthologized widely, including in the Best American Short Stories series. He has served on the Arizona Commission on the Arts since 1979, and in 1986, he co-founded ArtsReach, which brings writing programs to Native American communities in southern Arizona. He is also the author of Here I Am A Writer, a book that grew out of that experience, featuring ten of his former students, their writings, and life stories based on interviews. He conducted a training session with students in NMSU's school outreach program the following day, Saturday, April 21, 2012.

Chris Schacht, MFA (Fiction) '12, reading on April 20.
Blake Butler is the author of the novel There Is No Year, the novella Ever, and the novel-in-stories Scorch Atlas. He edits “the internet literature magazine blog of the future” HTMLGiant, as well as two journals of innovative text, Lamination Colony and No Colony. He lives in Atlanta. He read on April 27, 2012. 

Anna Pattison, MFA (Fiction) '12, reads on April 27, 2012.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Poetry Faculty Carmen Giménez Smith Publishes New Award Winning Book

Poetry Faculty Carmen Giménez Smith Publishes New Book, Goodbye, Flicker, Winner of the Juniper Prize for Poetry

This distinctive collection introduces a new type of mythmaking, daring in its marriage of fairy tale tropes with American mundanities. Conspiratorial, Goodbye, Flicker describes the interior life of a girl whose prince is a deadbeat dad and whose escape into a fantasy world is also an escape into language, beauty, and the surreal.

 “Carmen Giménez Smith’s Goodbye, Flicker takes on poetry, family, myth, fairy tale, memory, love, history, and our plain ordinary human stories. Magic and invention are taken for granted. Cómo se dice is what all poems say. Giménez Smith happens to say so with deliverance and desire that can break into anyone’s heart."—Dara Wier, author of Selected Poems and Reverse Rapture

“It's as if Giménez Smith threw a stone called 'girl' into the pond of psyche—a psyche both personal and collective—and these are the ripples.  The archetypal and the daily—its engine of class, race and gender—come fully forward in this terrific book, where lyric and narrative modes play, where 'Tale is a world / of condition, where every She seeks to change her story.”Dana Levin, author of In the Surgical Theater and Sky Burial