TAMIU Instructor Named May Swenson Poetry Award Recipient

Dr. Suzette Bishop, instructor of English at Texas A&M International University, was recently named the Utah State University Press (USU Press) May Swenson Poetry Award winner for 2003.

The award is named for May Swenson, a 20th century American who wrote poetry for more than 50 years, Bishop explained. She said each year the judge is a different American poet, who selects the winning manuscript from more than 800 submissions.

The award was especially meaningful to Bishop because she has long admired the work of 2003 judge Alicia Ostriker. USU Press published Bishop's winning manuscript this summer and Ostriker wrote the foreword.

Ostriker described Bishops work as "deeply personal, extravagantly public art."

Bishop said poetry first became part of her life through school.

"I wrote my first poem in 1979 when I took a creative writing class as a senior in high school. I started writing poetry more seriously once I was in college when I took more creative writing classes," Bishop explained, "My teachers and the other students in those classes encouraged me a lot. The college I went to, Oberlin College, was a place where creativity in general was greatly encouraged and supported. Going there taught me about exploring my abilities fully and respecting and developing my creativity."

Like closing the ends of a circle, Bishop explained writing poetry provides her with something to give back to her TAMIU students when teaching.

"Writing poetry has given me a chance to learn about the writing process by practicing it. I enjoy sharing this knowledge and reading my students' writing. I also know the kinds of sacrifices writers make to arrange their lives so that they have the time, energy, and focus to write. I try to stress this when teaching literature so that students develop a respect for what's involved in writing literature," she explained.

Bishop said poetry allows her to capture a moment in a unique way and allows her to touch people with her words.

"Poetry records what it's like to be alive, to be human. I love the way a poem can slow down or stop a moment and describe all the internal and external facets of that moment. Given our rushed lives, poetry allows us to slow down and look at something closely and to even see what someone else sees and experiences," she said, "I love the chance to reach someone else and move another person, make someone laugh or see things in a new way or articulate something someone may have always known or felt. I like the challenge of working with language in a new and surprising way, especially visually on the page. And writing poetry provides a rare opportunity to be completely honest."

Copies of Dr. Bishop's book are available at http://www.usu.edu/usupress or at amazon.com.

For more information about Dr. Bishop's poetry, please contact her at 326.2661, visit offices in the Sue and Radcliffe Killam Library, room 416A or e-mail sbishop@tamiu.edu. University office hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Journalists who need additional information or help with media requests and interviews should contact the Office of Public Affairs and Information Services at pais@tamiu.edu