UNT’s Rilke Prize recognizes mid-career poets

UNT’s Rilke Prize recognizes mid-career poets

UNT’s Rilke Prize recognizes mid-career poets
March 26
01:11 2014

Ali West // Staff Writer

[dropcap]K[/dropcap]atie Peterson was in the first grade when she wrote her first poem.

“I think people like writing poetry in school,” Peterson said. “Those of use who are crazy enough to keep going are the ones that do well.”

Peterson’s brand of crazy has paid off.

Peterson, an author and a lecturer at Tufts University in Massachusetts, was announced as the 2014 winner of the $10,000 UNT Rilke Prize for her book, “The Accounts.” The prize, named after German poet Rainer Maria Rilke, is awarded to a mid-career poet who published a book in the preceding year that “demonstrates exceptional artistry and vision,” according to the website.

Peterson will read “The Accounts” at UNT on April 8 and at the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture on April 9.

The three-year-old prize recognizes a poetry book that is both aesthetically rich and fiercely intelligent, director of creative writing Corey Marks said.

“I think that her work is exactly that,” Marks said. “The poems are incredibly well made. They have a great deal of lyric intensity, but they also seem very driven by thought.”

At the heart of “The Accounts,” Peterson’s third book, is the conflict of grappling with loss, Marks said.

“In reading that book we felt really moved by this account or the various accounts of grief in the book and with how the work tried to reconcile all the consequences of that loss and think through the process,” Marks said.

The purpose of the prize is to recognize a poet who is in the middle of his or her career. There are many prizes that celebrate new writers—emerging poet prizes or prizes for first books—just as there are many career-capping prizes, Marks said.

“There are fewer prizes that recognize people as they are coming into that mature stage of work that comes after they’ve published a couple of books,” Marks said. “We wanted to contribute to the literary scene by creating a prize that kind of noticed those people.”

Paisley Rekdal, who won the Rilke prize in 2013, said awards for mid-career writers are “real Godsends.”

“The mid-career writer is actually still struggling mightily to build and maintain a readership, as well as raise a family and pay for a mortgage,” Rekdal said.

The first year UNT awarded the Rilke Prize, Marks said there were about 60 entries. This year, however, there were more than 130.

“People are paying attention to this prize now out in the larger poetry world,” Marks said. “That kind of attention is resulting in this growth in terms of the number of submissions we get and in writers as well as presses submitting books.”

The Rilke prize does not accept self-published entries. Marks said the reasoning behind this is recognizing the process writers go through getting published through editors and readers boards.

“It’s a difficult thing to get a book published and I think people are frustrated that it’s a tricky process. But that alone is an achievement,” he said. “It’s already a sign of seriousness in accomplishment.”

For Peterson, being published means more than getting and keeping jobs.

“Publishing your books reminds you that it’s not your poem anymore,” Peterson said. “It belongs to the reader.”

There is also a desire to have others read her work, Peterson said.

“You want to know they’re taking your book home and reading it in secret,” Peterson said.

Schedule of Events

Tuesday, April 8: University of North Texas

4:00 p.m. Q&A, Curry Hall, Room 103

8:00 p.m. Reading & Book Signing, Business Leadership Building, Room 180

Wednesday, April 9: The Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture

6:30 p.m. Reception

7:30 p.m. Reading

Feature photo: Kathleen Peterson. Photo courtesy of Kathleen Peterson

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