posted April 25, 2012

Susanna Childress Wins Award for Book of Poetry

Dr. Susanna Childress of the Hope College English faculty has received the 2012 award in poetry from the Society of Midland Authors for her collection “Entering the House of Awe.”

Childress will be recognized on Tuesday, May 8, during the society’s annual awards event in Chicago, Ill., which will honor its choices for the best books by Midwest authors published in 2011.

The society presents awards for excellence to authors and poets in the categories of adult fiction and nonfiction, biography, poetry, and children’s fiction and nonfiction published in the previous year.  The juried competition is open to authors and poets who reside in, were born in or have strong ties to the 12 states of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

Childress’s collection “Entering the House of Awe” was published by New Issues Press in October 2011.  It is her second collection of poetry, following “Jagged with Love,” published by the University of Wisconsin Press in 2005.

Of “Entering the House of Awe,” poet Julia Spicher Kasdorf has said, “Readers familiar with Susanna Childress’s ‘Jagged with Love’ will recognize her distinctive voice in these poems: her nerve, her honest, quirky, irreverent, immediate and embodied yearning that rushes, wordy, right up to the ragged margins!  In this second collection, new formal approaches bring breath and space to the lines, even delicacy sometimes, but these fine poems move with no less urgency because they are compelled by her signature quest for truthfulness.”

Childress is a part-time member of the faculty; with the exception of a two-year fellowship at Valparaiso University, where she taught writing and literature, Childress has taught at Hope since 2006.

She has received a variety of awards for her writing and scholarship.  “Jagged with Love” was selected by Billy Collins for the Brittingham Prize in Poetry and by Southern Illinois University at Carbondale for the Devil’s Kitchen Reading Award.  She has received an AWP Intro Journals Award, the National Career Award in Poetry from the National Society of Arts and Letters, and a Lilly post-doctoral fellowship.

She has recently read through the college’s Jack Ridl Visiting Writers Series, on Tuesday, April 17.  She has also been a presenter during the college’s biennial Veritas Forum.

Childress’s poems have been featured in journals including “The Southern Review,” “Alaska Quarterly Review,” “Colorado Review” and “Missouri Review.”  She has also had short stories in “Gargoyle” and “Ruminate,” and reviews in “Books & Culture,” “Valparaiso Poetry Review” and “Southeast Review.”

She was born in California and spent her first decade in the Philippines, where her parents taught at a seminary, and landed in southern Indiana for the remainder of her adolescence.  She double-majored in English literature and writing at Indiana Wesleyan University, from which she graduated in 2001.  She completed her master’s at the University of Texas at Austin in 2003, and her doctorate at Florida State University in 2007.

The Society of Midland Authors was founded in 1915 by a group of authors, and has given out annual awards since 1957.  A few of the writers who have been recognized through the years include Saul Bellow, Kurt Vonnegut, Studs Terkel, Gwendolyn Brooks, Mike Royko, Jane Smiley, Dempsey Travis, Leon Forrest, William Maxwell, Louise Erdrich, Scott Turow, Alex Kotlowitz, Aleksander Hemon, Stuart Dybek and Roger Ebert.  In 2007, the collection “Broken Symmetry” by Jack Ridl, professor emeritus of English at Hope, was named co-winner in the poetry category.