Ashland University English Professor’s Book of Poems Selected as Poetry Prize Winner
8/22/12 ASHLAND, Ohio – Dr. Stephen Haven, professor of English and director of the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing Program at Ashland University, had his third book of poems, “The Last Sacred Place in North America,” selected as winner of the New American Press Poetry Prize.
Haven's book was selected by poet and critic T.R. Hummer as winner of the New American Press Poetry Prize from a pool of nearly 300 manuscripts. Haven received a $1,000 cash prize and book publication. “The Last Sacred Place in North America” was published by New American Press earlier this year.
"I heard about winning the award immediately after returning last spring from a six-week guest-teaching trip to China,” Haven said. “I have been a finalist or runner-up for similar book competitions 40 or 50 times. I was thrilled to finally win one!"
According to Haven, “The Last Sacred Place in North America” is a book that elegizes the entire World War II generation, including personal members of Haven’s family who belonged to that generation. The book has poems about changes in America during the 1950s and 1960s that reshaped conceptions of the Self—poems about space exploration, nuclear weapons testing, the development of American highways, the advent of computers, changes in American religion, and the on-going culture of war in post-war America.
A review of the book that appeared in the August 8 issue of Image Update, noted that Haven’s book “is a deeply human foray into the distances that separate us and the humanity that binds us together.”
“Constantly aware of his surroundings, Haven draws connections across vast geographic and emotional plains,” the reviewer noted. “Along the way he raises questions of journey: how do we navigate the landscapes in which we’re placed? If ‘it is never quite enough to be on this Earth,’ Haven asks us who, or what, we should consent to be, immersed as we are in a crowded world.”
The reviewer noted that this is a book seeking a sacred place, a home, amidst a collision of disparate cultures, places, and people. The reviewer writes, “With the death of a loved one, however, Haven’s global vision condenses to focus on a single grieving family. He explores tragedy with unflinching honesty and compassion, honoring the lost individual’s place in relation to the whole: ‘when you died the universe spread out more fully.’”
“From China to the moon, Haven shows places and people resonating,” the reviewer adds.
“His is at times a bleak, stripped voice conveying the horrors of suicide and bombings: ‘In an instant the Belgrade Chinese Embassy / morphed to bric-a-brac and air,’” the reviewer points out. “Yet ultimately, Haven finds hope in quiet clear moments, in the sight of a hand out a car window, ‘floating on air / for the sheer joy of it.’”
Haven has been long-time editor and is current director of the Ashland Poetry Press and has received five individual artist grants in poetry from the Ohio Arts Council since his arrival at Ashland University in 1992. He also has twice been a Senior Fulbright Lecturer at universities in Beijing. He has two earlier books of poems, “The Long Silence of the Mohawk Carpet Smokestacks” (West End/University of New Mexico Press, 2004) and “Dust and Bread” (Turning Point, 2008), and is author of the memoir, “The River Lock: One Boy’s Life along the Mohawk” (Syracuse University Press, 2008).
Haven, a native of Amsterdam, N.Y., holds a Ph.D. in American Civilization from New York University, and holds both a Master of Arts degree in American Studies and a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing (poetry) from the University of Iowa. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Amherst College and completed graduate work in English and Creative Writing at the University of Houston.
Ashland University, ranked in the top 200 colleges and universities in U.S. News and World Report’s National Universities category for 2012, is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University (www.ashland.edu) values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students.