Recent MFA grad, Matthew Baker, wins Fulbright to Ireland

Matthew Baker, who came to Vanderbilt with the MFA class of 2011, is currently a Fulbright Fellow in Ireland, where he is working on a novel.  While at Vanderbilt, he launched the online literary magazine, Nashville Review; he held a Third Year Fiction Fellowship in 2011-2012.

His fiction has appeared in such publications as American Short FictionNew England ReviewThe Kenyon Review, Ninth Letter, Meridian, Conjunctions, RedividerColorado Review, Denver QuarterlyHayden’s Ferry Review, and Best Of The Net. He also serves as translator for an “interlinked novel” titled The Numberless, a “randomized novella” titled Kaleidoscope, and an “intentionally posthumous” serialized novel titled Afterthought.   He has held residencies at the MacDowell Colony and the Blue Mountain Center.

Mark Jarman’s new book, Bone Fires, wins 2011 Balcones Poetry Prize

Mark Jarman’s book, Bone Fires: New and Selected Poems, has won the 2011 Balcones Poetry Prize, awarded by the Balcones Center for Creative Writing at Austin Community College to recognize an outstanding book of poetry published the previous year.

The judges noted that Bone Fires: New and Selected Poems collects poems from Mark Jarman’s eight previous books along with a generous selection of new poems. They cited the title poem, recalling the original meaning of “bonfire” as a religious ritual to ensure the return of light from the darkness of winter, which, they found, points to the essentially spiritual nature of Jarman’s lifelong poetic quest. They were impressed by the “clarity and simplicity of his diction, the musicality and cadence of his voice and keenness of perception in which ordinary experience is rendered luminous and the extraordinary, transcendent.” “The language is simple and straightforward, but beautifully rendered and able to show complicated ideas and feelings as if they were tangible things.” He “listens like truth”…and offers poems that are “nothing less than the soul’s labour, it’s singing.”

Former winners of the Balcones Poetry Prize include Chase Twichell, Arthur Sze, and Reginald Gibbons.  The four finalists for the 2011 award were:

  • Songs of Unreason, Jim Harrison (Copper Canyon Press)
  • Space, In Chains, Laura Kasischke (Copper Canyon Press)
  • The Politics, Benjamin Paloff (Carnegie Mellon University Press)
  • The World Falls Away, Wanda Coleman (University of Pittsburgh Press)

Bachmann wins Poetry Society of America’s 2011 Di Castagnola Award

Beth Bachmann’s new poems have won The Poetry Society of America’s 2011 Alice Fay Di Castagnola Award for a manuscript-in-progress.  Judge Elizabeth Willis writes, in the citation, that “We feel the poems pushing against grammar and logic and into phenomena. Words and phrases break into ‘fire,’ into ‘splinters,’ into ‘fragments. At times it is as if we are watching a chemical reaction reset to the rhythm of human perception.”

One of Bachmann’s new poems, “muse of arms,” was posted on the PSA website with the commendation by Willis, who also notes about the new manuscript, “It is as if we could witness the decomposition and refiguring of the world within the decomposition and refiguring of the line.”

The Alice Fay Di Castagnola Award honors the memory of a benefactor of the PSA and carries with it a cash award of $1,000.  Previous winners have included Natasha Saje (2008), Mary Jo Bang (2005), and Chana Bloch (2004).

DeColo wins Academy of American Poets Prize; Abushanab and Schepmann receive awards

Academy of American Poets Prize

In Spring 2011, the Creative Writing Program announced the winner of the 2011 Academy of American Poets Prize.   Poet Mary Kinzie judged the contest.

Winner:    Kendra DeColo, then a second-year MFA student, for “The Strap-On Speaks”

Honorable mentions:     Amanda Abel, then a first-year MFA student, for “Jasmine”  &  Donika Ross, graduate student, for “Little Box”

DeColo has since received her MFA and Abel is now a second-year MFA student in the English Department’s Creative Writing Program; Ross is a PhD student in the English Department who previously obtained an MFA at the University of Texas at Austin.

Sedberry Poetry Award

Chad Abushanab, then a first-year MFA student in poetry, was named the recipient of the 2011 Sedberry Poetry Award last spring.  This award, which has been in existence only a short time, was given to MFA graduates Stephanie Pruitt in 2009 and Lisa Dordal in 2010.


Outstanding MFA Writing Studio Consultant

In Spring 2011, Jill Schepmann, then a first-year MFA student, won the first annual award for Outstanding MFA Writing Studio Consultant to acknowledge her excellent work with students in the Writing Studio.

Baker and Greenberg have received fellowships for a third year at Vanderbilt

Matt Baker and Zack Greenberg

The MFA program received support for two fellowships in Creative Writing in the spring of 2011.  The faculty then decided to give the fellowships to two second-year students; with this support, the recipients are now able to spend a third year in residence at Vanderbilt.  During the 2011-2012 academic year, they will be able to take part in a variety of activities associated with the Creative Writing Program and to concentrate without interruption on their own writing.

These new third-year fellowships were awarded to fiction writer Matthew Baker and poet Zachary Greenberg, who are able to remain enrolled at Vanderbilt as non-credit students (they will receive their degrees in May 2012).