The old year, the new year, and the 2014 May Swenson Poetry Prize
06 Thursday Feb 2014
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Toward the end of 2013, we experienced a milestone life event in that we closed on our very very first home shortly before Thanksgiving, which meant a mad rush of packing and moving into our new home right before the Christmas holidays. All this of course was going on as we wound down the fall semester at the university where I teach— which meant days and nights of sheer exhaustion in our race to beat deadlines of various kinds.
We stopped to catch our breath for a few days to celebrate Christmas and the new year, and our daughters coming home from school for the holidays with their significant others. In between festivities, there were new homeowner challenges of many kinds— sewers backing up, emergency calls for plumbing and HVAC service, termite and pest control services, etc. In other words, we got thrown the whole book, without benefit of a training workshop!
Then, after the older daughters had returned to school and we here at home anticipated the start of the spring semester, we all were felled by some evil strain of influenza (even though we had taken care to get our flu shots in October). Much languishing and generable miserability followed, for a good ten days: coughing, unremitting headaches, pain, pain, pain, fevers, sawdust-in-the-mouth syndrome, some episodes of upchucking…
So it was that shortly before the Lunar New Year rolled around and we had all just shakily returned to work/school, I received a much needed boost in the form of a phone call from the director of the Utah State University Press, Michael Spooner, who told me that my poetry manuscript Ode to the Heart Smaller than a Pencil Eraser, had been selected by contest judge Mark Doty for the 2014 May Swenson Poetry Prize. Utah State University Press will publish the book in paperback, hardcover, and e-book versions in summer 2014.
It’s just now starting to get publicized, and poet, qarrtsiluni co-editor, and publisher Dave Bonta tonight very generously posted this wonderful announcement on his Via Negativa blog, where I have been posting (and where he has been archiving) my daily poems for the last three years.
“I want to congratulate my Via Negativa co-blogger Luisa A. Igoria for winning the 2014 May Swenson Poetry Award. Her manuscript Ode to the Heart Smaller than a Pencil Eraser was chosen by Mark Doty, a poet I greatly admire, from among 25 finalists — which had in turn been winnowed by preliminary readers from a field of nearly 700 entries. It will be published in hardcover, paperback and ebook later this year, with a preface from Mr. Doty.
Ode to the Heart Smaller than a Pencil Eraser will be Luisa’s 15th full-length book of poetry, and her third (with The Saints of Streets and Night Willow, forthcoming from Phoenicia Publishing) to include poems from this website. Luisa estimates that about 75 percent of the poems in the book first saw light of day at Via Negativa. That includes the title poem.
Needless to say, this is another huge vindication for Luisa’s daily poem-writing practice. I hope it might encourage other poets to be a bit more open about sharing poems on blogs, as well, and to stop worrying that A) writing every day might mean compromising quality, or that B) regular online self-publishing might preclude other opportunities. Personally, I know I wouldn’t be writing either as much or as well without Luisa’s daily example as a guide and inspiration. I hope she’ll continue to share her work on Via Negativa as long as she is able.
If you’d like to study writing with Luisa and her colleagues—John McManus, Michael Pearson, Janet Peery, Sheri Reynolds, and Tim Seibles—at Old Dominion University, their MFA Creative Writing Program is currently accepting applications for next fall (deadline: March 1).”
Thank you, Dave… In so many ways, your generosity in sharing creative space at Via Negativa and The Morning Porch have made this and my two other recent books (The Saints of Streets, University of Santo Tomas Publishing House, fall 2013; and Night Willow: Prose Poems, forthcoming from Phoenicia Press, Montreal, spring 2014) possible.