2011 Iowa Poetry Prize Winners Announced: Winning Collections to Be Published in Spring 2012

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. Natural Selections by Joseph Campana and Grand & Arsenal by Kerri Webster will be published by the University of Iowa Press in the spring of 2012.

With a boldness of vision that might overwhelm a lesser talent, Joseph Campana’s Natural Selections is a collection guided by a focused intelligence and yet containing wonderment and awe at its heart. From wandering the paths of the imagination, to driving through sparsely populated countryside, or listening for the voices of animals, these poems find the simplicity and strangeness of middle America, a complex metaphysics of place and an uncanny perspective reminiscent of landscapes of Grant Wood. Birds and beasts, frequent storms, country roads, a fraught election, and some of Ohio’s literary guardian angels (James Wright, Hart Crane, and Sherwood Anderson), haunt the poems. Whether enigmatically refracted or brutally direct, Natural Selections attends to the way life is beautifully, violently, and unexpectedly marked by place.

Joseph Campana teaches Renaissance literature at Rice University. His poems have appeared in Slate, Kenyon Review, Poetry, Conjunctions, Colorado Review, and many other venues. His first book of poetry, The Book of Faces, was published in 2005. He is also the author of The Pain of Reformation: Spenser, Vulnerability, and the Ethics of Masculinity (2012).

Kerri Webster’s award-winning Grand & Arsenal speaks from the intersection of public and private fear, of anxiety and awe, vanishings and reappearances, where a city both rises and falls and worlds are simultaneously spoken into being and torn down by words. Grand & Arsenal begins “Bless me I am not myself,” but it is not long before the probability of being blessed is revealed to be as remote as the concept of a whole self. Thus begins the book’s defining struggle. This endeavor is enacted by a multitude of voices, which move from rush to stumble and back again—meanwhile using all the tools we use as a culture to hold fear at arm’s length. We hear a familiar irony, humor, and understatement, but most importantly these poems allow for the fleeting triumph of an undefended voice, which appears often to emerge tentatively from a sort of exhausted collapse.

Kerri Webster is the author of a previous full-length collection, We Do Not Eat Our Hearts Alone (2005), well as two chapbooks: Psalm Project (2009) and Rowing Through Fog (2003). Writer in Residence at Washington University in St. Louis from 2006 to 2010, she currently lives and writes in her native Idaho.

Recent winners of the prize include Cloud of Ink by L. S. Klatt, Unbeknownst by Julie Hanson, Like a Sea by Samuel Amadon, and A Little Middle of the Night by Molly Brodak.