Saturday, November 23, 2019

Keith Kopka Wins Tampa Review Prize for Poetry

Poet Keith Kopka

Keith Kopka, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, has won the 2019 Tampa Review Prize for Poetry for his first book of poems, Count Four. In addition to a $2,000 check, the award includes hardback and paperback book publication in 2020 by the University of Tampa Press. 

Kopka’s poetry and criticism have recently appeared in Best New Poets, Mid-American Review, New Ohio Review, Berfrois, Ninth Letter, The International Journal of the Book, and many other journals. He is the author of the critical text Asking a Shadow to Dance: An Introduction to the Practice of Poetry and the recipient of the 2017 International Award for Excellence from the Books, Publishing & Libraries Research Network. 

Tampa Review judges praised his manuscript for its clarity of voice and surprising textures of metaphor that elevate his appealing, informal language: 

Count Four starts by winning us over to a close relationship with the author. We are sharing experiences with a confiding friend, who tells us, ‘I've always wanted to climb behind the wheel of a Zamboni’ and boasts, ‘If I wanted to, I could lift this poem above my head, and hold it there like a cartoon dumbbell.’ Before we know it, we’re caught up in the real power of a poet driving a vehicle that can smooth and restore the surfaces, leaving them ready to accept fresh scars as the next virtuoso performance or power play begins. We brace ourselves to witness the approaching crashes. We cheer at each passionate shot.”

Kopka is also the co-founder and the Director of Operations for Writers Resist, an international coalition of writers resisting the erosion of diverse expression and humane values, and a Senior Editor at Narrative Magazine. He’s currently an assistant professor at Holy Family University in Philadelphia.

Count Four is a highly personal collection of poems,” Kopka says. “It’s a book about trying to reconcile the more toxic aspects of masculine identity and understand the forces that shape that identity.” 

Despite the hockey metaphors of the opening poem, Kopka explains that much of the book draws from a somewhat similarly rough, edgy, and dangerous musical environment. 

“Many of the poems in the collection were written over years I spent in and around the East Coast punk scene,” Kopka says. “Writing this collection was my attempt to make sense of how the things and people that I loved the most in this environment were also what was most likely to destroy me. It was an attempt to reconcile the fact that the reason I loved and desired them was because of their destructive capacity.” 

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This year the judges also announced twelve finalists:

Craig Beaven, of Tallahassee, Florida, for "Teaching the Baby to Say I Love You”;

Sigman Byrd, of Westminster, Colorado, for “The Unlearning”;

Richard Cecil, of Bloomington, Indiana, for “Fantastic Voyage”;

Bill Christophersen, of New York, New York, for “Where Truth Lies”;

Andrew Collard, of Kalamazoo, Michigan, for “How to Be Held”;

Craig Cotter, of Pasadena, California, for “Alex”;

Jon Davis, of Santa Fe, New Mexico, for “The Many-Body Problem”;

Karen Kovacik, of Indianapolis, Indiana, for “Portable City”;

Nicholas Molbert, of Urbana, Illinois, for “Playing in Long Shadows”;

William Notter, of Richmond, Virginia, for “Buying the Farm”;

Martin Ott, of Los Angeles, California, for “The Stars Beneath Our Feet”; and

Mike Schneider, of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for “Festive Purple Inner Glow.”

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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 2020. Entries should follow the published guidelines and must be received online by December 31, 2019.

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.

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