Jack Ridl of the Hope College English faculty has won the 2001 "Letterpress Chapbook Competition" sponsored by the Center for Book Arts of New York City.
Ridl's winning collection, "Against Elegies," will be published in a letterpress-printed, limited-edition chapbook designed, printed and bound by artists at the Center for Book Arts. There were some 500 entries in the prestigious competition, which was judged by poets Sharon Dolin, who also coordinated the competition, and Billy Collins.
In addition to the publication--limited to 100 signed and numbered copies--Ridl will be honored during a celebration and reading at the center on Thursday, Nov. 1. He is also receiving a $1,000 combined cash award and honorarium.
Given the level of competition for the award, Ridl noted that he feels honored to have been chosen, adding that he particularly values that Collins, whose work he admires, chose his manuscript. "To have Billy Collins be the one who selected the poems is a wonderful affirmation," he said.
Ridl said that the poems of "Against Elegies" are linked thematically in beginning with everyday objects and situations that have meaning beneath the surface.
"In most of these poems, I start with something that doesn't necessarily look meaningful, and then I'm searching in the poems to find meaningfulness--why it might matter," he said. "And we're surrounded by these things."
The Center for Book Arts is dedicated to preserving the traditional crafts of book-making, as well as exploring and encouraging contemporary interpretations of the book as an art object. Founded in 1974, the non-profit center does its work through exhibitions, publications, lectures, services to artists and classes.
"This is one of many wonderful things about this particular selection, having people who are devoting their lives to creating quality books design and produce the book," Ridl said. "I am very excited by this. Just imagine having a whole cultural institution devoted to preserving quality in making books. I can't wait to see what they come up with."
Ridl is the author of other published collections including "The Same Ghost" (1985), "Between" (1988), the chapbook "After School" (1987) and "Poems from The Same Ghost and Between" (1993). He has published more than 175 poems in journals such as "The Georgia Review," "Poetry East," "Chelsea," "Gulf Coast," "The Denver Quarterly," "Poetry," "The New York Quarterly," "Ploughshares," "Prairie Schooner" and "FIELD." He has also had work included in several anthologies, and is co-author, with Hope colleague Peter Schakel, of the text "Approaching Poetry: Perspectives and Responses."
He has read his work and led workshops at colleges, universities, art colonies and other venues around the country. He teaches intermediate and advanced courses in poetry writing at Hope, and also founded the college's Visiting Writers Series.
Among other honors, in 1996 he was chosen Michigan's "Professor of the Year" by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. He was named one of eight "New Voices in Michigan Poetry" in 1984, received a Creative Artist Award from the Michigan Council for the Arts in 1988 and has received several nominations for the Pushcart Prize. The college's graduating class of 1975 presented him with the "Hope Outstanding Professor Educator" Award.
As word of his most recent award has spread, Ridl has received a variety of congratulatory notes from colleagues. "I've had so many wonderful messages from friends," he said.
He noted that he has been touched by one in particular, sent by someone who had also entered the competition. "It said, 'Dear Jack: I got a rejection slip today. It's the only one that ever made me happy.'"