Contact: Jeff Muphy
WARRENSBURG - 6/14/2006 - In 2005, The Kansas City Star named University of Central Missouri Professor Kevin Prufer one of 15 "Midwestern Writers to Watch." Living up to this moniker while also bringing recognition to UCM's growing literary culture, he recently received two national awards for his poetry.
Prufer, professor of English and coordinator of the university's creative writing program, was awarded a Pushcart Prize for a poem that appeared in the New York magazine, "Lyric." He also was named winner of the 2006 George Bogin Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America in New York for a group of poems that will appear in his new book.
"This is really gratifying," Prufer said in talking about the awards. "I write poetry, but there’s an old cliché that goes 'writing a book of poems is like dropping a rose petal into the Grand Canyon and waiting for an echo.' For years, I had the feeling that I was writing poetry and nobody was reading it…so it is very nice to get this kind of news."
Numerous Honors Received
Prufer is modest. This is the third time in the last five years that he has received the Bogin Award, and the third time in as many years that he received a Pushcart Prize. He has consecutively received some type of literary award every year since 2001, as well as numerous honors, fellowships and awards throughout the 1990s.
The UCM professor was notified in late May that he was selected for the Bogin Award. Named in memory of poet George Bogin, the award includes a cash prize. According to the Poetry Society, it is given on the basis of "four or five poems that use language in an original way to reflect the encounter of the ordinary and extraordinary and to take a stand against oppression in any of its forms."
Prufer's award-winning work appears in his latest book, "National Anthem," which is a collection of poems on American history, government, and the U.S. image at home and abroad, that will be published in 2008 by Four Way Books in New York City.
The Pushcart Prize
The Pushcart Prize was for his poem "A History of the American West." The literary community’s equivalent to television’s Emmy, these awards have been given annually since 1976 for works that are published by small presses across America. Award winners are included in "The Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses" series, which is one of the most prestigious literary anthologies in print.
Examining Conflicting Views of America
"Both the poem and the entire book try to examine our conflicting, and sometimes destructive sense of America," Prufer said. "That is, as I wrote I was thinking mostly about American nationalism, our increasingly insular sense of ourselves, our romantic myths about our past and our – often rather apocalyptic - notion of our future."
Editor of "Pleiades"
In addition to his individual recognition, Prufer’s contributions as editor of UCM's national literary magazine, "Pleiades: A Journal of New Writing," have helped it to attain four Pushcart/Best of the American Small Press Awards in the past six years. The latest of these honors was announced this spring for an essay, "Vexing Praxis/Hocus Nexis," contributed by Mark Halliday, professor of English at Ohio University. It gave the magazine the distinction of having won a Pushcart award in every category possible – short stories, poetry and essays -- and being one of the most awarded magazines in the country in recent years.
Magazine Enters National Spotlight
Prufer joined the UCM faculty in 1996 and started working on "Pleiades" with Professor Emeritus Rose Marie Kinder. As the magazine has entered the national spotlight in recent years, it has attracted contributions from recipients of the Nobel Prize for literature, the National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize, The National Book Critics Circle Award, the MacArthur/Genius Grant, the Guggenheim Fellowship, and the Yale Younger Poets Award.
An Increased Awareness
Prufer insists that awards like the Pushcart Prize have helped increase the quality of the publication as more well-known writers want their work associated with what national editors and publishers are reading. He said the magazine receives "tens of thousands" of submissions for its fall and spring issues.
"Submissions used to just trickle in; now they come in stacks," Prufer said. "It's a really good problem to have."