Alum wins poetry and fiction prizes

Richard Spilman (’68) has won the Sacramento Poetry Center Award for In the Night Speaking, which was published by SPC Press in November. “Spilman’s poems never force their intelligence and never slack, never misstep,” wrote judge Dennis Schmitz, “so that you are carried away by the music before you are entirely aware of it.” The book is available at the usual places, including

Spilman, who teaches in the MFA program at Wichita State University, is also the author of a chapbook, Suspension, which won the New American Press Award in 2006, and a collection of short stories, Hot Fudge, which was a New York Times Notable Book in 1990.

“I have many fond memories of IWU,” Spilman writes. “I came in as a chemistry major, pre-med, but the pull of literature and my irritation with the memorization and math of the sciences led me away. The old woman who lived across the street from my parents and cleaned houses for a living cried when I dropped out of the pre-med program. I grew a beard at about the same time, and my mother remarked, “You used to be such a clean boy.”

“Of the many fine professors (and perhaps one or two not so fine) I remember particularly Joe and Doris Meyers. Joe taught creative writing and told wonderful anecdotes—of writers and of the Europe he occasionally traveled in. Where he was quiet and insidiously wonderful, his wife Doris was a force of nature. She sat on the front of the desk in a dress of some solid color with a brooch to set it off or invaded the aisles other teaches left to us, and made us believe, in spite of all common sense taught us, that Plato and Aristotle were relevant to our lives.

“While at IWU I was the editor of the literary magazine, The Black Book. There was no English House or any place for the magazine to call home, so both years I was editor I would sit in the Dean’s office every couple of days, and if he would see me, I would ask for some place to house the literary magazine. Both years the Dean became so exasperated with my presence that he gave us a fine house recently bought by the university, and it became an English House of sorts—a place where English students could congregate.”

Spilman’s most recent book, a collection of short fiction titled The Estate Sale, won the George Garrett Prize just this month and will be published by the Texas Review Press in 2010.

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