Monday, November 20, 2017

In Memoriam: Michelle Boisseau

Michelle Boisseau. Photo courtesy UMKC.
The editors and staff of the University of Tampa Press and Tampa Review share a deep sense of loss at the passing of poet, editor, and teacher Michelle Boisseau. She died Wednesday, November 15, 2017, in Kansas City of lung cancer.

Click this sentence for a link to the notice posted by Kansas City’s public radio station KCUR.

Michelle won the Tampa Review Prize for Poetry for her last book, Among the Gorgons. When Michelle visited our campus last year to read selections from the book, I had the pleasure of introducing her.  In tribute to her, I would like to post that introduction here:

As many readers will know, the gorgons in Greek mythology are three sisters with serpents for hair. Their penetrating eyes are powerfully compelling, capable of destroying or turning to stone those who look upon them.  As ancient goddesses with origins going all the way back beyond six thousand years B.C., their irresistible monstrous beauty holds the power to both destroy and resurrect.  Their gorgon faces serve as both mask and mirror.

Through the words of Michelle Boisseau, “among the gorgons,” one gradually senses what it might be like inside those eyes, on the other side of the mirror and the mask. What unrelenting courage does it take to see with such eyes?  What dreadful humor, terrifying sympathy, or fierce and penetrating love is awake behind the gaze?

Each year I read hundreds of unpublished poetry book manuscripts for the Tampa Review Prize for Poetry, and I find myself looking for one manuscript that I cannot resist.  I set this as a challenge for myself.  If I can put it down, turn away, and stop looking at it, then I do, and move on to consider the next one. But my gaze kept returning to Among the Gorgons.

It was a manuscript with such impressive range, variety, and craftsmanship that I could not turn away. It leapt unexpectedly from personal to mythic, tender to satiric, or tragic to comic. It was beautifully crafted and artistically compelling. It simply had to be our winner.

Eventually I would discover the poet who submitted it: Michelle Boisseau.  When it comes to poetry, she literally wrote the book.  Her creative writing textbook, Writing Poems, is required reading in workshops around the country and is now in its eighth edition.

She is the author of four previous books of poetry: A Sunday in God-Years, published in 2009 by the University of Arkansas Press; Tumbling Air, a PEN USA finalist, published by University of Arkansas Press, 2003; Understory, winner of the Morse Prize, Northeastern University Press, 1996; and No Private Life, Vanderbilt, 1990. Her work has appeared in The Gettysburg Review, The Southern Review, The Hudson Review, The Kenyon Review, Poetry, Ploughshares, The Threepenny Review, The Yale Review, and Shenandoah, in addition to many other influential journals.

She was educated at Ohio University and the University of Houston (Ph.D., English/Creative Writing). She has taught at Virginia Intermont College, Morehead State University, and since 1995 at the University of Missouri Kansas City. She has received two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships and two prizes from The Poetry Society of America.  She serves as associate editor of BkMk Press and is a member of The Poetry Society of America and PEN America.

In writing judges’ comments for the unpublished text of Among the Gorgons, I tried to express some of the things that made the manuscript so compelling. They remain among the many reasons I am glad this manuscript existed, for I feel very grateful that it has given me the opportunity to get to know Michelle, and to come to know her book more fully during the process of publishing it. I also feel fortunate to be able to introduce her to you here, and in doing so, I would like to share the conclusion of my comments:

In a world where we are all aware of sudden reversals, Boisseau suggests the relevance of art. We are tasked with admiration for the artistic gift that frames contradiction and reveals its beauty. Her voice constantly surprises us with strength in unexpected places and shapes irony into an energetic force. Best of all, her poems in this collection work individually—satisfy and stand fully on their own—while at the same time gathering force and resonance as the book moves confidently into a whole that is greater than its parts.  As Boisseau writes of Henry James’s  meeting with George Eliot: “Ugly is the mother of the sublime—dreadful / and magnetic, it sucks you over the edges / with the torque of awe, so much like love / it must be love.” Boisseau renders and controls the torque through a collection that inspires both awe and love.

It was a deep pleasure to know and to publish editor, professor, poet, and half-sister to Gorgons, Michelle Boisseau.

-Richard Mathews, Director, University of Tampa Press

Monday, August 21, 2017

Poet Eric Smith Wins 2017 Tampa Review Prize

Poet Eric Smith

Eric Smith, of Carrboro, North Carolina, has won the sixteenth annual Tampa Review Prize for Poetry for his collection of poems, Black Hole Factory. In addition to a $2,000 check, the award includes hardback and paperback book publication in 2018 by the University of Tampa Press. 
 Smith’s poems have been published in 32 Poems, Southwest Review, The New Criterion, and the Best New Poets anthology. His critical prose appears in Pleiades and The Rumpus, and is forthcoming in the AWP Writers' Chronicle. He was a founding editor of cellpoems, the innovative and award-winning poetry journal distributed via text message, and he has received scholarships and fellowships from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and Convivio, among others.  He is an assistant professor of English at Marshall University, in Huntington, West Virginia, and divides his time between West Virginia and a home in North Carolina. 
Tampa Review judges praised his manuscript for its exploration of an impressive range of traditional poetic forms while building an innovative, personal voice:  
“Eric Smith writes with a commitment to the history and craftsmanship of the well-shaped poem, but his use of tradition, rhyme, and meter become sources of surprise and innovation in his hands. The book has poems that communicate impressive control, intellect, and wit—poems that cultivate ironic self-awareness and detachment on the part of both poet and reader.  And then there are breakthrough moments giving up both irony and control.  In the end, he has shaped a profound and accomplished manuscript of deep personal engagement graced by moving, open flights of lyricism.”
Smith was born in Carrollton, Georgia, and lived in Michigan, Florida, and Spain before moving to West Virginia in 2010.  He earned his BA at the University of West Georgia, an MA from Northern Michigan University, and an MFA from the University of Florida. 
Smith says that his interests in form are wide-ranging.
“I do think rhyme and meter are important. But that’s not to say these tools are more important than any others,” Smith says. “These just happen to be ones that work for me. I’m perpetually astonished by my contemporaries who dare the limits of form, who put new pressure on language and on the sentence.”
“It’s not a stretch to connect that interest in form and restraint to cellpoems, ” he adds. ”My friend Christopher Shannon, an incredible poet and the founding editor of cellpoems, introduced me to the work of Lorine Niedecker, who says in “Poet’s Work”: “No layoff / from this / condensery.” We took that, I think, as an imperative—both for the kind of work we published in the magazine, and also in the work we were ourselves attempting to do.”
Smith is currently working on a second collection of poems, as well as a collection of critical essays on contemporary poetry. 
This year the judges also announced ten finalists: 
Aaron Baker, of Chicago, Illinois, for "Posthumous Noon”;
Charlie Bondhus of Bridgewater, New Jersey,  for “Divining Bones”;
Polly Buckingham of Medical Lake, Washington, for “A Day Like This”;
Donna L. Emerson of Petaluma, California, for “The Place of Our Meeting”;
Jonathan Greenhause of Jersey City, New Jersey, for “Our Recurring List of Heartbreaks”; 
Emily Mohn-Slate of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for “The Falls”; 
Jim Peterson of Lynchburg, Virginia, for “The Horse Who Bears Me Away”; 
Nicholas Samaras of West Nyack, New York, for “The World as Smoke and Distance”; 
Maureen Seaton of Miami, Florida, for “Undersea”; and
Randall Watson of Houston, Texas, for “The Geometry of Wishes.”
The Tampa Review Prize for Poetry is given annually for a previously unpublished booklength manuscript. Judging is by the editors of Tampa Review, who are members of the faculty at the University of Tampa. Submissions are now being accepted for 2018. Entries should follow the published guidelines and must be received online or postmarked by December 31, 2017.
Complete guidelines are available at <> or by sending a self-addressed, stamped envelope to The Tampa Review Prize for Poetry, University of Tampa Press, 401 West Kennedy Blvd., Tampa, FL 33606.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Garrett Theige Garners Eleventh Annual
Danahy Fiction Prize from Tampa Review

Garrett Theige, winner of the 2017 Danahy Fiction Prize 
Garrett Theige, of Andover, Massachusetts, has been selected as the winner of the eleventh annual Danahy Fiction Prize by the editors of Tampa Review. He receives a cash award of $1,000 and his winning short story, “Blast Radius,” will be published in the forthcoming Fall/Winter issue of Tampa Review.
This will be a first fiction publication for Theige, who has substantial work in print as a journalist and teaches English at the Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. 
Theige grew up in the suburbs of Detroit and graduated from the University of Missouri with degrees in magazine journalism and English. His previous writing experience includes work as a sports reporter and freelance magazine writer in Missouri, two summers as a newspaper reporter in Michigan, and work as a reporter in Grand Forks, North Dakota, before moving to Andover to teach.
 “Blast Radius,” while set within the confines of a central character’s apartment, has its origins from a global perspective. The story gradually reveals the frightening awareness of an approaching worldwide destruction.
“I wrote a much shorter version of ‘Blast Radius’ in 2013 while studying in Pamplona, Spain,” Theige says. “My roommate and most of my friends were vacationing in other countries, which left me with an unusually quiet apartment and an entire week to myself. Pamplona itself also felt pretty hushed that week, as if the blankets of clouds were muffling the normal sounds of the city. I'm somewhat of a classic extrovert, so I usually cope with silence by doing a lot of writing. That first version of the story reflected a lot of that week—Jerry [the central character] wandered around his apartment while wondering about the outside world in the face of a looming apocalypse.”
“I put the story away for three years until I returned to it this past fall to expand it,“ Theige said. 
Tampa Review judges praised Theige for his use of vivid and original detail, controlled pacing of his plot, and a clear and evocative prose style. 
“Garrett's story was unusual in the best ways,” said one of the judges, fiction editor Yuly Restrepo. “Its dystopian, apocalyptic setting is immediately engaging, but what makes it a winner is the humanity at its core.” 
This year judges also named two runners-up for the Danahy Prize: Alicia Fuhrman of Northampton, Massachusetts, for “Salvage,” and Ron MacLean of Roslindale, Massachusetts, for “Lesser Escape Artists.” 
“It was a real surprise to discover the coincidence that these top three writers are all living in Massachusetts,” said Richard Mathews, editor of Tampa Review. “That’s never happened before. But when we contacted Garrett Theige to tell him he’d won, we found out he’d moved out of Fargo, North Dakota, where he lived when he submitted his story, and he now lives in Massachusetts. It’s definitely a literary state!”
The Danahy Fiction Prize was established by Paul and Georgia Danahy as an annual award for a previously unpublished work of short fiction judged by the editors of Tampa Review, the faculty-edited literary journal of the University of Tampa, published twice yearly in a distinctive hardback format. Subscriptions are $25 annually, and subscriptions received by the end of August will begin with the issue featuring Theige’s prize-winning story.
The Danahy Fiction Prize is open to both new and widely published writers, with an annual postmark deadline of December 31. The $20 entry fee includes a one-year subscription to Tampa Review, and all entries submitted are considered for publication.
Complete guidelines are available on the Web at or by sending a self-addressed, stamped envelope to The Danahy Fiction Prize, University of Tampa Press, 401 West Kennedy Blvd., Tampa, FL 33606.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Richard Chess Discusses His Newest Book of Poetry

Poet Richard Chess is the Director of The Center for Jewish Studies, Roy Carroll Professor of Honors Arts and Sciences, and Chair of the Department of English at the University of North Carolina Asheville. He is also the author of three previous collections of poetry, Tekiah (1994), Chair in the Desert (2000), and Third Temple (2007), all of them available from the University of Tampa Press. 

As the official publication date approaches, Rick sat down with Tampa Press Director Richard Mathews to talk about the new book, what he’s been up to, and what 2017 will bring. This is an excerpt of their discussion, but you can read the complete conversation with Richard Chess on Tampa Review Online.

* * *

Mathews: The variety and focus of work in your new collection of poetry, Love Nailed to the Doorpost, is surprising and impressive, even to those of us who have known your work well over the years.  Can you talk a little about how it came to be?

Chess: Since publishing Third Temple, I’ve become a regular contributor to “Good Letters,” the blog published by the folks at Image journal. I contribute a thousand-word piece (or a little less) to “Good Letters” about every eighteen days or so. I’ve been writing for them for six years now.

Writing for “Good Letters” has enabled me to discover a new voice and style of writing. It has been one of the most exciting developments for me as a writer at this stage of my life. A good number of the pieces are lyrical prose, more like longish prose poems. Some (but very few) are straightforward narrative, analytical, or argumentative pieces of prose. I’ve also written some about my experiences as an educator, looking in particular at ways I’ve been integrating contemplative practices into my teaching.

I am also very active in two other networks that have some bearing on the directions in which my writing and teaching have moved in recent years. First, I’m involved in a national movement exploring the use of contemplative practices in higher education. The organization is called “The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society.” It is the umbrella organization for the “Association for the Contemplative Mind in Higher Education.” I have been on the faculty of ACMHE’s summer seminar in contemplative curriculum development, and I have presented regularly at their annual academic conference. This organization has really become my professional home.

My work with this organization grows out of my own commitment to a personal contemplative practice discipline. I began my daily meditation and related contemplative practices in a Jewish context, participating in two cohorts of the sixteen-month-long Jewish Mindfulness Teacher Training Program, a national program. My engagement with contemplative life—in Jewish contexts and academic contexts—has been a transformative experience for me over the last eight years or so—since the publication of Third Temple.

I am a leader on my own campus of an initiative to integrate contemplative practice throughout university life. I’ve also been developing courses that I teach, mostly in the honors program, on topics connected to contemplative practices, including spiritual autobiography and poetry as a spiritual practice. 

I have no doubt that my writing has been deeply informed by these new developments in my personal and professional life.

Mathews: So we see all of these strands brought together in Love Nailed to the Doorpost?

Chess: Yes, directly and indirectly. These strands, I think, inform the way I move and think through a number of the poems and pieces of lyrical prose. These experiences have also opened my eyes to certain subjects that I don’t think I would have explored if it had not been for the practices in which I’ve been engaged as an educator, a Jew, and a writer.

* * *
Love Nailed to the Doorpost is available now for order in hardback or paperback.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

In Memoriam: R. C. H. Briggs

Author and Barrister R. C. H. Briggs

The editors and staff of the University of Tampa Press share a deep sense of loss at the passing of a friend and mentor, the British writer, barrister, and editor R. C. H Briggs.  He died peacefully on December 28, 2016, in his bed at home in Coombe Bissett, near Salisbury, with his family around him. He was 92.

Ronald Charles Hawkswell Briggs was born in West Yorkshire, and graduated from New College, Oxford. After serving in the Royal Armoured Corps (RAC) from 1943 until 1947, earning the rank of Captain, he completed a Master of Jurisprudence degree and an advanced degree in French.  He became a barrister at law, and following a period of practice at the Common Law Bar, in 1972 he accepted  appointment as Legal Secretary for the independent legal watchdog organization Justice, the UK section of the International Commission of Jurists. There he advanced the group’s mission of “promoting human rights” and “improving the system of justice.”

During his years at Oxford University, and even as he began his legal work, Ron was also becoming a leading authority on the work of William Morris. He was drawn to Morris for a host of reasons, from printing to politics.  In 1957, Ron proposed and successfully launched the first important traveling exhibition of Morris’s work as a printer and typographer: The Typographic Adventure of William Morris. He completed a groundbreaking "Handlist of the Public Addresses of William Morris” in 1960, which called attention to Morris’s speeches as a central and neglected part of his achievements. He launched the first issue of the Journal of the William Morris Society in 1961, serving as its founding editor, and continuing to edit and publish it for seventeen years and making it the single most important source for William Morris studies. In his "Editorial" for the first issue, Ron wrote: “Morris’ central theme, epitomized by him as ‘Reverence for the life of Man upon the Earth,’ led him to criticize much in the world around him; and much that Morris criticized still exists.”

As a leading light for the William Morris Society, he served as its Honorary Secretary as well as a trustee of the Kelmscott House Trust.  He designed numerous publications and led the Society’s publishing program, including introducing a custom of hand printing an annual Christmas greetings card, often in the Kelmscott House basement, which housed a treadle-operated Arab press and one of the original Albion presses from the Kelmscott Press. He organized excursions to important Morris sites, launched the William Morris Centre at Kelmscott House, and was instrumental in the historic home’s preservation and improvement. Today it continues to be home to the William Morris Society.

Ron was deeply committed to issues of human rights and human dignity, equitable justice, political integrity and reform, historical preservation, international thinking, and the preservation of the environment.  He worked to sustain and contribute to many of the works and perceptions that Morris advocated.  His friend and colleague Martin Williams, who served with him as an officer of the Morris Society and later became a founding trustee of the Emery Walker Trust, aptly observed: “Ron was a remarkable character—inspirational, idiosyncratic, and truly larger than life. There was something of William Morris about him, with that continuous energy and unrelenting pursuit of what he perceived to be the right.”

As a dedicated amateur printer, Ron was also drawn to the achievements and influence of Morris’s friend and Hammersmith neighbor, Emery Walker.  He campaigned in many ways for greater recognition of Walker's achievements, promoting him as not only an inspiration and virtual partner in Morris’s Kelmscott Press, but for his many impressive achievements as a photographer, photographic engraver, printer, and founding partner of the influential Doves Press. Ron championed efforts that led the London County Council to place a blue plaque at Walker’s residence at 7 Hammersmith Terrace in 1959.  For that occasion, he produced the earliest draft of another influential work, which was later revised and published by the University of Tampa Press—Sir Emery Walker: A Memoir

Ron is survived by his wife, Joan; his children, Julian, Roland, and Jeni; and his grandchildren, Sylvie and Sasha.

A memorial service was held in Salisbury on January 12. In lieu of flowers, the family suggested donations to one of Ron’s favorite charities, the Tibet Relief Fund.

Ronald Briggs at his home a few months before his 90th birthday.