WMU News

WMU poetry series writers give readings

Oct. 21, 1997

KALAMAZOO -- Two of the first national poets published by Western Michigan University's New Issues Press Poetry Series will read from their work at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 5, in Room 3321 of Brown Hall.

Marsha de la O, an elementary school teacher from Ventura, Calif., will read from her work "Black Hope," and Rebecca Reynolds, assistant director of the undergraduate honors program at Douglass College, the women's college at Rutgers University, will present pieces from her work "Daughter of the Hangnail."

The two books are among six selected for publication this year by the New Issues Press Poetry Series, an initiative established in 1996 by the WMU College of Arts and Sciences and the Department of English. The series is dedicated to publishing first books of promising new poets from Michigan and the United States.

Last year, three Michigan poets were published by the series and 1997 marks the first year of the national competition. Four national writers and two regional writers have been chosen for publication.

De la O is the overall winner of the New Issues Press Poetry Prize. In addition to having her book published, she also will receive $1,000.

Chase Twichell, a well-known poet and professor of creative writing at Princeton University, judged the national component of the series. Besides works by de la O and Reynolds, Twichell chose "Erasable Walls" by Lance Larsen and "Distance Learning" by Angela Sorby for publication.

Larsen is an assistant professor of English at Brigham Young University and Sorby is a teacher at Linfield College in Oregon.

In the regional component of the New Issues Press Poetry Series, two Michigan poets were selected for publication. The works include "Fifth Season" by Anthony Butts and "Downsides of Fish Culture" by David Dodd Lee.

Herbert S. Scott, WMU professor of English and editor of the series, made the selections for the regional component, along with an advisory board from the Department of English.

Butts and Lee are both graduates of WMU's master's program in creative writing. Butts is a doctoral

student at the University of Missouri at Columbia. Lee was raised in Muskegon and presently resides in Kalamazoo and works at an area hospital.

All of the writers chosen for the series will read at the University during the year. Following de la O and Reynolds, Lee is scheduled for a Nov. 12 reading at Kalamazoo College and Sorby will read during the Third Coast Writers' Conference at WMU in May. Butts gave a reading in early October and Larsen's date is still being finalized.

Since its inception more than one year ago, New Issues has won praise from publishers, editors and poets, according to Scott. More than 670 manuscripts were entered in the latest competition and he expects 1,000 entries for 1998.

"We have received dozens of letters praising this new venture as one greatly needed," Scott says. "It's unique in the U.S. and a boon to both undergraduate and graduate students who get to work as editorial assistants and assistant editors on a national publishing project."

Scott and his group have been very aggressive in establishing a national presence for the New Issues Series, advertising in high profile poetry publications and working with mainstream distributors. Last year, the first books were reviewed in such places as Publishers Weekly, Booklist and the Detroit Free Press.

"New Issues Poetry within the next two years will be considered the outstanding new poetry publisher in the U.S.," Scott says. "There will be no better first book of poems published this year than New Issues Poetry Prize winner Marsha de la O's 'Black Hope.'"

The deadline for the 1998 contest is Nov. 30. Contact Scott at 616 387-2592 for more information.

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