The 2015 Red Mountain Press Prize was judged by Denise Low, author of Jackalope and Mélange
Block, 2007-2009 Kansas Poet Laureate. She comments on the winning submission:
“In her extraordinary book The Last Stone in the Circle, Irena Praitis examines the nature of evil as a central paradox of human experience. The Holocaust is the poet’s occasion for an appraisal of social destruction. “The camp Römhild/ is not like Buchenwald./ It goes faster here…,” she writes in the opening, quoting a commandant. Beauty entwines with pain. “Chord” is an amazing poem, intermingling sounds of execution with opera. This serious, substantive topic is an essential addition to the genre of tragic literature.” Based on eyewitness accounts, The Last Stone in the Circle chronicles experiences of prisoners in a WWII German work re-education camp. Delving into the murkiness of human experience in the face of suffering, the poems consider the complicated choices people make in impossibly difficult circumstances and explore the sheer resilience of survival. Irena Praitis has authored five books. She is a professor of literature and creative writing at California State University, Fullerton, and lives in Fullerton with her son, Ishaan.
The two outstanding finalists are Israel Wasserstein for When Creation Falls and Linda LeGrande Grover for To the Woman Who Just Bought That Set of Native American Spirituality Dream Interpretation Cards.
Israel Wasserstein Beginning from a childhood in a Kansas trailer and expanding to face a possible apocalypse, When Creation Falls explores what it means to have everything one thought one knew fall away, and asks what can take that place. Israel Wasserstein was born and raised in Kansas, and holds an MFA from the University of New Mexico. His first book, This Ecstasy They Call Damnation, was a Kansas Notable Book.
Linda LeGrande Grover To the Woman Who Just Bought That Set of Native American Spirituality Dream Interpretation Cards: This book weaves traditional Ojibwe teachings and beliefs into the collectively traumatic intergenerational experience of the Indian boarding school era. Themes of loss and survival, compromise and salvation, breakage and resilience, spiral throughout the stories of Ojibwe families and communities of the past century. Linda LeGarde Grover is a member of the Bois Forte Band of Ojibwe and associate professor of American Indian Studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth. She has authored several prize-winning books.
Two more outstanding works have been awarded Honorable Mention. Terra Incognita by James K. Zimmerman of Pleasantville, New York and Man Made Out of Cornflakes by John Surowieki of Amston, Connecticut