Prairie Schooner News
Our tenth FUSION brings a stunning and intimate collaboration with Vietnam, exploring the familial ties and cultural resonance of Aunts—maternal and paternal, blood-related or not. Our Editor-in-Chief, Kwame Dawes, and our Vietnamese co-curator, talented poet Nguyen Phan Que Mai, have each written introductory essays to situate the included works within their verse traditions as well as a broader sense of cultural history, and to offer points of entry into the theme. “For thousands of years,” Que Mai writes, “ca dao, Vietnamese folk poetry, has been transformed into lullabies and sung by mothers, aunts, and sisters across Vietnam.” And of the theme, Kwame Dawes writes, “There is nothing profound here, frankly, except to say that the position of the aunt is deeply connected to our parents and the permission they give us to treat other adults as relevant to our lives, and is, in some way, responsible for who we are and how we live in the world.”
FUSION 10 represents our first full-blown venture into translation. The well-known and distinguished working poets from all over Vietnam featured here include Lu Thi Mai, Vo Que, Bui Hoang Tam, Nguyet Pham, Nguyen Thanh Nga, and Nguyen Duc Mau. Their works have been translated by Thuy Dinh Thieu Khanh, working in collaboration with curators Dawes and Que Mai. Thuy Dinh, in her translator’s note, offers an explanation of the tonal distinctions present within the Vietnamese language. Calligrapher Chu Giang Phong Trinh brings each of the poems to life through the traditional art of Vietnamese calligraphy, and in his essay, describes the thrill of finding inspiration within a poem.
This translated work harmonizes with poems from our archives—dating as far back as 1939 and as recently as 2006—by well-loved Prairie Schooner contributors including Ted Kooser, Chris Forhan, Karen Swenson, R.T. Smith, J. Ely Shipley, and Helen Conkling. Local textile artist Phyllis Moore of Lincoln, NE, shares her series of great aunts, a paper-pieced series of abstract textiles in the shapes of her aunts. In her essay, she describes the startling realization of hearing herself referred to as a great aunt while at a family reunion, and the inspiration it brought to honor her own great aunts in this way.
Each FUSION combines poems from our Prairie Schooner archives with work by a Nebraskan visual artists, featured alongside new writing from poets and work by an artist elsewhere in the world. Check out our FUSION archives, including collaborations with Hong Kong, Iran, Australia, Ghana, and others here.
Award-winning poet Matthew Shenoda will give a public reading of his work on April 30 at an event co-sponsored by Prairie Schooner, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s international literary journal.
The event will take place at the Great Plains Art Museum from 7:00 to 8:30 and is free and open to the public. Shenoda will sign copies of his books after the reading, during a reception to follow. The event is presented through a partnership between the department of English and Prairie Schooner, along with other UNL sponsors including the African Poetry Book Fund, the Institute for Ethnic Studies, and African-American and African Studies. “Matthew Shenoda belongs to a small group of truly brilliant and important poets writing in the United States today,” said Kwame Dawes, Prairie Schooner Editor-in-Chief and director of the African Poetry Book Fund and the UNL Creative Writing program. “Shenoda’s poetry manages to achieve that combined grace of deep wisdom and humility, and in the process, he offers us poems that speak to our times in elegant and thoughtful ways. He is also a generous and diligent academic, literary advocate, administrator and teacher—a combination that is quite rare in someone so young. It is exciting to have him come to campus. We are in for a treat.”
Shenoda is the author of three books, most recently Tahrir Suite: Poems (TriQuarterly Books/ Northwester University Press, 2014). His debut, Somewhere Else (Coffee House Press) was named one of 2005’s debut books of the year by Poets & Writers and won a 2006 American Book Award.
Shenoda lectures widely and has taught extensively in the fields of ethnic studies and creative writing. His work has appeared in a variety of newspapers, journals, radio programs, and anthologies. He has been twice nominated for a Puschart Prize and his work has received support from the California Arts Council and the Lannan Foundation. Additionally, Shenoda has served on the Board of Directors of several arts and education organizations and is a founding editor of the African Poetry Book Fund.
To learn more about Shenoda, his books, and his most recent activities, visit his website, http://www.matthewshenoda.com. To learn more about the African Poetry Book Fund, visit http://africanpoetrybf.unl.edu/.
Thanks to generous supporters of the literary arts, Prairie Schooner, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s literary journal, was able to award seventeen writing prizes totaling $8,250 for work published by both established and emerging writers in 2014.
The $1,500 Glenna Luschei Prairie Schooner Award was given to Leigh Camacho Rourks of South Louisiana for her story “Moon Trees” in the spring issue. Rourks is the managing editor of Rougarou, a journal based at the University of Lousiana-Lafayette. Her story “Pinched Magnolias” recently received the Robert Watson Literary Review Prize in Fiction. This prize is made possible by the generosity of poet, publisher, and philanthropist Glenna Luschei.
The $1,000 Lawrence Foundation Award for best short story published in Prairie Schooner in 2014 was given to Jennine Capó Crucet of Tallahasse, Florida, for “Happy Birthday, Dear Dante” in the summer issue. Crucet’s story collection How to Leave Hialeah (2009) won the Iowa Shirt Fiction Prize and the John Gardner Book Award among many other accolades. Her novel Make Your Home Among Strangers is forthcoming in August 2015, and this fall she joins the faculty of the creative writing program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.. This prize is made possible by the Lawrence Foundation of New York City and its director, Leonard S. Bernstein.
The $1,000 Virginia Faulkner Award for Excellence in Writing was given to Nathalie Handal of New York City for her poem “Ta’bien Negra” in the winter issue. Handal is the author or editor of many books, including The Poetry of Arab Women: A Contemporary Anthology, which won the PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Book Award, and the poetry collection Poet in Andalucia (2012). The Faulkner Award is supported by charitable contributions to honor Virginia Faulkner, former editor-in-chief of the University of Nebraska Press and fiction editor at Prairie Schooner.
The $1,000 Edward Stanley Award was given to Faisal Mohyuddin of Chicago, Illinois, for his poem “What the Wind Said to Me When I Awoke from Another Nightmare in Which My Father Had Died, Alone” in the fall issue. Mohyuddin is a literature teacher at Highland Park High School. His writing has been featured on Chicago Public Radio and published in several journals, including Poet Lore, Atlanta Review, and Free Lunch. This award is made possible through charitable contributions from the family of Edward Stanley, a member of the committee that founded Prairie Schooner in 1926.
The $500 Bernice Slote Award for the best work by a beginning writer was given to Jacob Newberry of Tallahasse, Florida, for the essay “Place de Clichy” in the summer issue. Newberry is a PhD student at Florida State University. His poems have appeared in Out Magazine, Granta, Kenyon Review, and Iowa Review, among others. The Slote Award is supported by the estate of Bernice Slote, Prairie Schooner editor from 1963 through 1980.
The $500 Annual Prairie Schooner Strousse Award for the best poem or group of poems published in Prairie Schooner in 2014 was given to Yi-Fen Chou of Fort Wayne, Indiana, for four poems in the fall issue. His poems have been published in Shenandoah, Michigan Quarterly Review, Sonora Review, and South Dakota Review, among others. The Strousse Award is given in honor of Flora Strousse.
The $250 Hugh J. Luke Award was given to Melissa Febos of New York City for her essay “Call My Name” in the spring issue. Febos is a writer and professor. Her memoir Whip Smart was released in 2010, and her work has been featured in The New York Times, Salon, and BOMB Magazine. She teaches writing at Sarah Lawrence College, the New School, and New York University. The Hugh J. Luke Award was established in memory of Prairie Schooner's editor from 1980 through 1987.
The $250 Jane Geske Award was given to Dave Madden of San Francisco, California, for his story “Another Man’s Treasure” in the winter issue. Madden is the author of The Authentic Animal (St. Martin’s Press, 2011), and If You Need Me I’ll Be Over There: Family Stories (Indiana University Press, 2016). His fiction has appeared in The Rumpus and DIAGRAM. He teaches in the MFA program at the University of San Francisco. The Jane Geske Award is given by Norman Geske in honor of his wife, Jane Geske, a lifelong supporter of Nebraska’s literary arts.
There were nine winners of the Glenna Luschei Prairie Schooner Awards of $250 each. These awards are made possible through the generosity of Glenna Luschei.
Sarah Robinson of Pavia, Italy for the essay “Magic Circle” in the fall issue.
Ashley Robertson of Wilmington, Delaware, for the story “Árida Zona” in the spring issue.
Mecca Jamillah Sullivan of Massachusetts for the novel excerpt “Dazzling Futures and Other Fairy Tales” in the fall issue.
Laina Mullin Pruett of Massachusetts for the story “Telling the Bees” in the winter issue.
Lisa Batya Field of Massachusetts for the story “The Fracture” in the spring issue.
Karen McCarthy Woolf of London for the poem “Of Roadkill and Other Corpses” in the summer issue.
Ravi Shankar of Connecticut for the poem “The Hindu Gets Baptized” in the spring issue.
Ed Madden of South Carolina for the poem “Because” in the spring issue.
Kevin Simmonds of San Francisco, California, for the poem “Nod” in the summer issue.
Prairie Schooner is published with support from the University of Nebraska Press, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln English Department and its creative writing program, and the Glenna Luschei Endowed Editorship and Fund for Excellence at Prairie Schooner at the University of Nebraska Foundation. Subscriptions may be ordered by visiting http://prairieschooner.unl.edu. You can also follow Prairie Schooner on Facebook and Twitter.
The Spring 2015 issue of Prairie Schooner is now available and is on its way to subscribers. The new issue features fiction and poetry from Aurvi Sharma, Floyd Skloot, and Amina Gautier, among others.
This issue includes award announcements for Prairie Schooner contributors, including the Lawrence Foundation Award for the best short story published in Prairie Schooner in 2014, given to Jennine Capó Crucet for her story “Happy Birthday, Dear Dante” (Summer 2014), and the Virginia Faulkner Award for Excellence in Writing, given to Nathalie Handal for her poem “Ta’bien Negra” (Winter 2014). This issue also features Aurvi Sharma’s essay “Eleven Stories of Water and Stone,” which won the 2014 Prairie Schooner Summer Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest.
Once again, the new issue demonstrates Prairie Schooner’s dedication to publishing diverse voices from around the world. Anthony Tao is the editor-in-chief of Beijing Cream, an English-language Chinese blog. His poem “Samizdat in Blood” appears in this issue. Vandana Khanna’s newest poetry collection, Afternoon Masala, was released last March. As she explains to The Missouri Review, her latest project reimagines stories from Hindu mythology. Five of her poems appear in this issue. Titsian Tabidze was a Georgian poet executed by Stalin during the Great Purge. His poem “Tbilisi Evening” appears here translated from the Georgian by Rebecca Gould.
The cover of this issue features An Awesome Wave, a digital print on archival paper overlaid with metallic ink, varnish, and crystals, by Julia Ibbini. Ibbini lives in the United Arab Emirates. Her work is the result of a complex process involving digitally layering drawings, photographs, and painting, and then overlaying these prints with various materials including inks, thread, and beads.
To discover more from our talented contributors, check out their work in our newest issue. To learn more about Prairie Schooner or how to subscribe, visit http://prairieschooner.unl.edu.
Award-winning authors Amina Gautier and R.A. Villanueva will give a public reading at the annual Book Prize Reading and Celebration event, honoring the two 2013 prize-winning writers, Thursday, April 2nd at 7:00 PM at The Great Plains Art Museum.
The event will feature readings from R.A. Villanueva’s prize-winning poetry collection, Reliquaria (UNP, 14) and Amina Gautier’s prize-winning short-story collection titled, Now We Will Be Happy (UNP, 14). The readings will be accompanied by multimedia interpretations of each of the author’s works by local artists Zach Mueller (photographer) and Kiernan Lofland (sculptor), with a book signing and catered reception to follow. The event, located at 1155 Q Street, Lincoln, NE 68508, is free and open to the public.
R.A. Villanueva was born in New Jersey and lives in Brooklyn. His honors include the 2013 Ninth Letter Literary Award for poetry and fellowships from Kundiman and the Asian American Literary Review. His writing has appeared in Virginia Quarterly Review, AGNI, and elsewhere. He teaches at New York University. Of Reliquaria, Idra Novey, author of Exit, Civilian, writes: “These vivid and deeply lived poems question ‘every delicate gift we have thrown away.’ Villanueva searches the world for the divine and—gorgeous poem by poem—he finds it.”
Amina Gautier teaches in the department of English at the University of Miami. She is a winner of the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction. Her work has appeared in numerous literary journals, including Antioch Review, Glimmer Train, Iowa Review, Kenyon Review, and Southern Review. Of Now We Will Be Happy, Leah Strauss of Booklist writes: "Gautier's linked stories deftly capture her characters' internal struggles for identity and home."
Prairie Schooner is a nearly ninety-year-old national literary journal published quarterly with the support of the English Department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the University of Nebraska Press. Prairie Schooner is home to the best fiction, poetry, essays, and reviews being published today by beginning, mid-career, and established writers around the globe. For more information, please visit: http://prairieschooner.unl.edu/ or follow Prairie Schooner on Facebook and Twitter.
Poet and scholar Tsitsi Jaji will give two public talks at events co-sponsored by Prairie Schooner, UNL’s international literary journal, on Thursday afternoon, February 26.
The first event, a lecture entitled “Africa in Stereo: Listening for Pan-African Futures,” will take place from 3:30 to 5:00 in the Bailey Library. The second, a poetry reading, will follow from 7:00 to 8:00, in Room A of the Regency Suite in the Nebraska Union. Jaji’s poetry has been featured in Prairie Schooner, and her chapbook Carnaval appears in the Seven New Generation African Poets box set, published as part of the African Poetry Book Series by Slapering Hol Press in association with Prairie Schooner and the African Poetry Book Fund (2014). Jaji was also recently named a finalist in the African Poetry Book Fund’s Sillerman First Book Prize.
“The African and African-American Studies program unanimously chose to invite Jaji to UNL. Jaji's research on African-American music in Africa represents the best of interdisciplinary global and African diaspora studies,” Alice Kang, Assistant Professor of Political Science, said. “On top of that, Jaji is a wonderful poet. We're thrilled that Jaji will be giving both an academic talk and a poetry reading. There will be something for everyone.”
Tsitsi Jaji was born and raised in Zimbabwe. Currently an assistant professor of English and Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, Jaji’s work has appeared in Poetry International, Prairie Schooner, Bitter Oleander, Munyori, Runes, and elsewhere. She is also the author of Africa in Stereo: Modernism, Music and Pan-African Solidarity (Oxford University Press, 2014), a scholarly monograph on which her lecture is based.
In addition to Prairie Schooner, event sponsors include the African Poetry Book Fund, the African-American and African Studies Program, the Institute for Ethnic Studies, the English Department, the History Department, the Political Science Department, the Sociology Department, the UNL Faculty Senate Convocations Committee, and the Women’s and Gender Studies Program. Both events are free and open to the public.
For more details about this event, visit http://www.prairieschooner.unl.edu.
African Poetry Book Fund Names Mahtem Shiferraw Winner of 2015 Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets
The African Poetry Book Fund and Prairie Schooner are pleased to announce that Ethiopian-American poet Mahtem Shiferraw’s has been named the winner of the 2015 Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets for her manuscript, Fuchsia. Shiferraw will receive a $1000 cash award and publication of her manuscript as part of the African Poetry Book Series by the University of Nebraska Press and Amalion Press in Senegal, to be released in the spring of 2016. The Sillerman Prize is sponsored by philanthropists and funders of the African Poetry Book Fund, Laura and Robert Sillerman, whose annual bequest has continued to fund the work of the African Poetry Book Fund in its publishing and promotion of African poetry.
Of winning the prize, Shiferraw says, "I am extremely humbled and honored to have won the Sillerman; the fact that my poems will finally have a life of their own after so much wandering is beyond anything I could ever have hoped for."
Kwame Dawes, Director of the African Poetry Book Fund and Prairie Schooner Editor-in-Chief, says, “Every year, we wonder where the new and dynamic voices will emerge from to grab our attention, and this year has been no different. Shiferraw’s verse is elegantly formed work that explores with sophistication the complexities of exile and return, of memory and hope in the future through sharply-honed images, and through a vulnerability that is haunting and disarming.”
Mahtem Shiferraw is a poet, visual artist, and cultural activist. She grew up in Eritrea & Ethiopia. Her poems have been published in the 2River View, Blast Furnace Literary Journal, Blood Lotus Literary Journal, Cactus Heart Press, Mad Hatters Review, Mandala Literary Journal, and Blackberry Magazine and are forthcoming from Diverse Voices Quarterly and Callaloo Literary Journal. Her prose appears in the Bitter Oleander Press and Long Story, Short Journal. She was nominated for Best of the Net in 2013 and her short story “The River” was a finalist at Glimmer Train Press Open Fiction. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Vermont College. More information is available at Mahtem's website: http://mahtemshiferraw.com/.
The title poem of Shiferraw’s collection, “What is Fuschia?” is excerpted below:
And then, you ask, what is fuchsia – and there’s a faint smile, a
sudden remembrance, an afterthought in hiding, forgotten smells
of wild flowers and days spent in hiding, in disarray. And mulberry
daisies carried by phosphorescent winds into the warm skin of sleeping
bodies; moments spent between here and there, pockets of emptiness –
without sound, without reckoning.
Shiferraw is the third poet to win the annual Sillerman Prize after Clifton Gachagua of Kenya for his book, Madman at Kilifi, and Somalian-American poet Ladan Osman, whose winning book, The Kitchen Dweller’s Testimony, will be released in April 2015. The winner of the annual Sillerman Prize is selected by the six-person APBF editorial team: Chris Abani, Matthew Shenoda, Bernardine Evaristo, John Keene, Gabeba Baderoon and Kwame Dawes.
The finalist for this annual prize was the Zimbabwe-born poet Tsitsi Jaji, for her manuscript, Beating the Graves. The judges also made special mention of the Nigerian poet D.M. Aderibigbe for his manuscript, My Mother’s Song and Other Similar Songs I Learnt.
More information about the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets and other APBF initiatives is available on the APBF website: http://africanpoetrybf.unl.edu/. Or, stay connected on Twitter or Facebook. You can also find more about Prairie Schooner here at http://prairieschooner.unl.edu/.
Award-winning British writer Bernardine Evaristo will give a public reading of her work on November 7 at an event co-sponsored by Prairie Schooner, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s international literary journal.
The event will take place at the Van Brunt Visitors Center from 5:00 to 7:30 and is free and open to the public. Evaristo will sign copies of her books after the reading, during a catered reception to follow. The event is presented through a partnership between the department of English and Prairie Schooner, along with other UNL sponsors including the Department of History, the Institute for Ethnic Studies, the College of Arts and Sciences, and Women’s and Gender Studies. We’re thrilled that we can bring such a high-profile, prestigious author to UNL,” Marco Abel, chair of the English department, said. “That we’re able to give our community the opportunity to meet Evaristo in person is the direct result of the collaborative spirit at UNL and is testimony to the generosity of the various units whose support was instrumental for our ability to arrange this event.”
Evaristo is the author of seven books, most recently Mr. Loverman (Akashic Books, 2014). Mr. Loverman received a positive review in The New York Times, where Ellery Washington notes “Evaristo’s confident control of the language” and “vibrant use of humor, rhythm, and poetry.” Evaristo writes in many genres, including prose novels, verse novels, scripts, and non-fiction—often mixing elements of each within the same book. She is also an editor, literary critic, playwright, and essayist.
Evaristo is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and the recipient of an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honors List in 2009. She has won the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize, EMMA Best Book Award, Big Red Read Award, Orange Youth Panel Award, NESTA Fellowship Award and the Arts Council of England Writers’ Award in 2000. She is the founder and director of the Brunel University African Poetry Prize. She also serves on the Editorial Board of the African Poetry Book Fund, based at the University of Nebraska.
Poet and literary philanthropist Glenna Luschei will launch her new book of poetry, The Sky Is Shooting Blue Arrows (University of New Mexico Press) at an event hosted by Prairie Schooner, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s international literary journal.
The event will take place on October 27 at 7:00 p.m. at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum and is free and open to the public. The reception will celebrate the publication of The Sky Is Shooting Blue Arrows. Luschei will read from her new book and sign copies (available to purchase courtesy of the University of Nebraska bookstore) afterward.
“Glenna Luschei has for over fifteen years now been an ardent and very loyal, dedicated alumna and benefactor for her alma mater, the University of Nebraska,” says Susan Norby, Senior Director of Development at the University of Nebraska Foundation. “She has demonstrated visionary charitable support, particularly for literature and poetry, and the university is forever indebted to her and inspired by her.”
Luschei has written over twenty-five books, ranging from books of poetry to artist books and translations. She is also the founder and publisher of Solo Press, which publishes the poetry journals Café Solo, Solo, Solo Café, and Solo Novo. She is the recipient of a National Endowments for the Arts Fellowship, a D.H. Lawrence Fellowship in New Mexico, and an Honorary Doctorate of Literature from St. Andrew’s Presbyterian College in Laurinburg, North Carolina. In 2000, she was named Poet Laureate of San Luis Obispo City and County. She served as a panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts for four years. She is also a UNL alum.
“Glenna Luschei is very special to this university and especially to Prairie Schooner and the English department. Frankly, it is thanks to her generosity and philanthropy that Prairie Schooner has been able to advance with confidence for the past decade or so through her generous gift to the journal,” says Kwame Dawes, the magazine’s Glenna Luschei Editor-in-Chief. “She gives to the university, and she has been a great example of giving for years and years, even when she herself was working hard to make ends meet. She recently donated funds to establish the Glenna Luschei African Poetry Book Prize, and her support and enthusiasm make her a very special friend of ours. On top of all that, she is a brilliant poet, and her new book is one we celebrate for its insight, humanity, and craft.”
In 2001, Luschei endowed Prairie Schooner in perpetuity through the University of Nebraska Foundation. She also supports a number of Prairie Schooner’s activities, including the Glenna Luschei Prairie Schooner Awards, and, in partnership with the African Poetry Book Fund, the Glenna Luschei Prize for African Poetry.
Luschei’s most recent books include Leaving It All Behind (Presa Press, 2011), Witch Dance (Presa Press, 2010), and Salt Lick (West End Press, 2009). Among her artist books is Enigmas, a translation of poems by Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz.
For more details about this event, visit http://prairieschooner.unl.edu.
Prairie Schooner is pleased to announce that Aurvi Sharma is the winner of the 2014 Summer Creative Nonfiction Contest, for her essay “Eleven Stories of Water and Stone.” She will receive $250 and publication in the Spring 2015 issue of Prairie Schooner.
Aurvi Sharma’s writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Fourth Genre, Everyday Genius and Remedy. In 2012, she was awarded the Sarai Non-Fiction Fellowship, during which she travelled to riverside ruins across north India. Sharma was the recipient of the 2014 Wasafiri New Writing Prize (“Life Writing”). She lives in New York.
Judith Ortiz Cofer, the judge of this year’s prize, said of Sharma’s essay, “This essay is best described in the author’s own phrase: ‘trying to hold water in a fist.’ Each of the sections is a powerfully focused revelation of how the most basic of elements, the basis of survival—water—determines the life in an Indian community. But it is not mere social history; it is also about how individual lives and relationships are affected by either the presence of water or its scarcity. It is a poem and a history lesson."
Emily Geminder’s essay “Coming To: A Lexicology of Fainting” is the runner-up of this year’s contest. Geminder is a Durwood Fellow at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She has worked as a journalist and editor in New York and Phnom Penh. Her writing has appeared in the New York Observer, the Cambodia Daily, and elsewhere.
Last year’s winner was Melissa Febos, whose essay “Call My Name” appeared in the Spring 2014 issue of Prairie Schooner. To learn more about Prairie Schooner, the latest issues, and how to subscribe, visit http://prairieschooner.unl.edu.