2010 Iowa Poetry Prize Winners Announced: Winning Collections to Be Published in Spring 2011

Awarded annually by the University of Iowa Press, the Iowa Poetry Prize is one of the leading national poetry awards. The acclaimed competition is open to new as well as established poets. Unbeknownst by Julie Hanson and Cloud of Ink by L. S. Klatt will be published by the University of Iowa Press in spring of 2011.

Julie Hanson’s collection, Unbeknownst, gives us plainspoken poems of unstoppable candor. They are astonished and sobered by the incoming data; they are funny; they are psychologically accurate and beautifully made. Hanson’s is a mind interested in human responsibility—to ourselves and to each other—and unhappy about the disappointments that are bound to transpire (“We’ve been like gods, our powers wasted”).  These poems are lonely with spiritual longing and wise with remorse for all that cannot last. Her poem, “The Kindergartners,” begins, “All their lives they’ve waited for / the yellow bus to come for them,” then moves directly to the present reality: “Now it’s February and the mat / is wet.”  Settings and events are local, familiar, never more exotic than a yoga session at the Y, one of several instances where the body is central to the report and to the net result  (“My organs are surely glistening. This car was made for me.“). These poems are intimate revelations, thinking as they go, including the reader in the progress of their thought.

Julie Hanson is coordinator of a food-buying cooperative in Cedar Rapids, Iowa; she holds an M.A. in expository writing and an M.F.A. in poetry from the University of Iowa. Her work has earned awards and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Vermont Studio Center, the West Chester University Conference on Narrative and Form, and the Cincinnati Review and has been published in such venues as the Michigan Quarterly Review, New Ohio Review, Iowa Review, Volt, Poetry East, Tampa Review, and Booth.    

On the surface, the poems that make up L. S. Klatt's Cloud of Ink are airy and humorous—deceptively lightweight with their tales of chickens wandering the highways of Ohio and Airstream trailers rolling up to heaven and whales bumping like watermelons in a bathtub—but just under the surface they turn disconcertingly serious. Together they celebrate the fluent word. Under the heat of inquiry, under the pressure of metaphor, the poems in this collection liquefy, bend, and serpentine as they seek sometimes a new and sometimes an ancient destination. These poems present the reader with existential questions, and also side-wind into the barbaric; the pear is figured as a “wild boar” and the octopus is “gutted,” yet primal energies cut a pathway to the mystical and the transcendent. The cosmos in Cloud of Ink is loquacious and beautiful, strange and affirmative, but never transparent. Amid “a maelstrom of inklings,” the writer—and the audience—must puzzle out the meaning of the syllabary.

L. S. Klatt teaches American literature and creative writing at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. His poems have appeared in such journals as the Boston Review, Columbia Poetry Review, Denver Quarterly, Notre Dame Review, Chicago Review, FIELD, Cincinnati Review, jubilat, Colorado Review, Iowa Review, Eleven Eleven, and Verse. His first book, Interloper, won the Juniper Prize for Poetry. He is a graduate of Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio, and holds advanced degrees from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, St. John’s College, and the University of Georgia.

Recent winners of the prize include Like a Sea by Samuel Amadon, A Little Middle of the Night by Molly Brodak, Full Catastrophe Living by Zach Savich, and something has to happen next by Andrew Michael Roberts.