A Mind Like This

Winner of the 2011 Book Prize in Poetry

The winner of the Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry for 2011 is Susan Blackwell Ramsey for her manuscript, A Mind Like This. She will receive a $3,000 prize and publication by the University of Nebraska Press. She was born in Detroit, received her BA from Kalamazoo College and has managed to live in Kalamazoo most of her life. She taught high school, gardened for hire, and worked as a horticultural transparencies librarian, but has primarily been a bookseller. While she and her husband, Wayne, raised three children, she worked at Kalamazoo’s oldest independent bookstore and began publishing poems, receiving an Irving S. Gilmore Emerging Artist Grant. When the bookshop closed she was admitted into the University of Notre Dame’s Creative Writing MFA program, where she was given the department’s Mitchell Award. Her work appeared in Wayne State University’s New Poems from the Third Coast: Contemporary Michigan Poetry, in 2006 she won the Marjorie J. Wilson Award from Margie: The Journal of American Poetry, and David Wagoner chose her “Pickled Heads, St. Petersburg” for the 2009 edition of Best American Poetry. She currently teaches spinning, knitting, and creative writing at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts.

About the Book

Winner of the Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry, Susan Blackwell Ramsey’s A Mind Like This is a work of humor and wit, unexpectedly delightful and full of surprises as it reflects on the oddness of everyday life, the natural world, literary history, popular culture, and more. Everything is fair game for Ramsey, who finds poetry in love and sickness and life, of course, but also in knitting and unreliable bladders and the peculiar name of Kalamazoo. Neruda makes an appearance, as do Eric Clapton and Brahms, Leonard and Virginia Woolf, and Jimmy Stewart.

Whether observing the pickled heads of Peter the Great’s offenders, wondering “How to Seduce Henry David Thoreau,” becoming the insecure voice of Kalamazoo, or puzzling over the intricacies of the  mind that blocks a dear friend’s birthday while preserving the name of Emily Dickinson’s dog in perpetuity, Ramsey’s collection is wise and funny, allusive and deeply felt.


“Susan Blackwell Ramsey, a poet of unending curiosity, gives us ample evidence here of what the mind can find when it goes looking for what it does not yet see. Her poems have a way of making the world feel just discovered, and convey a sense of attachment to people that is expansive and invigorating. This is a fine book by a wonderful poet.”—Bob Hicok, author of Words for Empty and Words for Full

“Susan Blackwell Ramsey—a poet who sees, remembers, and sorts it all out. Check out ‘Our Third Wedding Reception This Year,’ a sonnet with meter and rhyme all in place, but so conversational that formalities slip away and the story itself unfolds as though the teller were sitting across from us at the window.”—Conrad Hilberry, author of After-Music

“Rife with humor and grace. . . . A Mind Like This showcases a supremely supple and cultivated imagination that unbolts yards and yards of elegant and ardent poems. But the real thrill? Her dazzling wit that lights the whole collection aflame.”—Aimee Nezhukumatathil, author of Lucky Fish

A Mind Like This covers so much ground with such unbridled enthusiasm at the joy of language and the mysteries of mind that only poetry can attempt to illuminate that, fifty-four poems later, the reader will be on the lookout for Ramsey’s next book, and possibly scouring literary magazines for a more immediate fix.”—Daniel Coffey, ForeWord

About the Author

Susan Blackwell Ramsey is an instructor at Kalamazoo Institute of Art. She won the Marjorie J. Wilson Award from Margie: The Journal for American Poetry and her poem “Pickled Heads, St. Petersburg” was chosen for the 2009 edition of Best American Poetry.