Skip to Navigation
University of Pittsburgh
Print This Page Print this pages

October 10, 1996

Two University Press books nominated for major awards

Two works of poetry published by the University of Pittsburgh Press as part of the Pitt Poetry Series have been named finalists for major literary prizes.

"The Crack in Everything" by Alicia Suskin Ostriker has been named a National Book Award finalist. "The Art of Drowning" by Billy Collins is a finalist for the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize.

"There are three major prizes for books of poetry in the United States," said Ed Ochester, series editor. "They are the Pulitzer, the National Book Award and the Lenore Marshall Prize. The fact that the University Press and the Pitt Poetry Series have finalists in two of those is remarkable." Ochester said this is the first time that books from any university press have been chosen as finalists for either prize. As far as he knows, it also is the first time that any poetry publisher has simultaneously had finalists for the two prizes.

Both Collins and Ostriker had been recruited by the University Press, Ochester noted. Collins had previously been published by a New York publisher and Ostriker by Princeton University Press.

"Obviously, we couldn't be more pleased," said Press Director Cynthia Miller of the nominations. "Having two major poets from the poetry series being finalists for two of the biggest prizes in poetry at the same time is quite impressive. I think it stands as evidence of the fine job that Ed has done with the poetry series that it is getting this kind of recognition." Each finalist for the National Book Award receives $1,000. The winners receive $10,000 and a crystal sculpture. Winners will be announced on Nov. 6 in New York City.

The National Book Awards were established to annually recognize the best in American fiction, nonfiction and poetry. This year a fourth category, young people's literature, was added to the awards.

In announcing the finalists, National Book Foundation director Neil Baldwin noted that an unprecedented 817 titles were submitted for prize consideration by 214 publishers.

The winner of the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize also receives $10,000. In addition, an essay on the winning book will appear in The Nation, along with a selection of poems from the book. The winner will be announced in mid-October.

The Marshall prize was established in 1975 by the New Hope Foundation in memory of poet, novelist, essayist and political activist Lenore Marshall. Along with publishing novels, books of poetry, a collection of short stories and selections from her notebooks, Marshall, in 1956, was one of the founders of the National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy and successfully lobbied for a partial nuclear test ban treaty in 1963.

Ostriker is the author of seven other volumes of poetry, including "The Imaginary Lover," which won the 1986 William Carlos Williams Award of the Poetry Society of America. Her work has appeared in American Poetry Review, Kenyon Review, Ms., The Nation, The New Yorker and The Paris Review.

"The Crack in Everything" looks at the details of a woman's daily life and health. Publishers Weekly said of the book: "Ostriker confronts middle age and mortality with deft touch and wry humor, so that by the time we reach 'The Mastectomy Poems" – whose observations cut as clean and sharp as the surgeon's scalpel – we are already immersed in her sensibility that 'tragedy/Is a sort of surrender.'" Collins is a professor of English at the City University of New York. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review and Harpers. His book "Questions About Angels" was a winner of the National Poetry Series publication prize. He also is a current finalist for the Poet's Prize awarded by the Nicholas Roerich Museum in New York City.

"The Art of Drowning" is a more varied work than "The Crack in Everything." It looks at subjects ranging from the gustatory pleasures of osso buco to an analysis of Keats's handwriting to the art of calendar pinups and the music of the blues.

–Mike Sajna

Filed under: Feature,Volume 29 Issue 4

Leave a Reply