For much of the year, associate English professors Suzanne Parker and Laura McCullough spend their time teaching students the ins and outs of writing in a Brookdale classroom. When not on campus, Parker and McCullough lead by example.
The two long-time instructors are also accomplished poets, piling up awards, accolades and a growing list of publication credits for their respective works over the last few years.
This year is no different, as Parker’s new chapbook Feed has been selected for the Sunken Garden Poetry Prize and publication by Tupelo Press, while McCullough’s forthcoming collection The Wild Night Dress, due out next year by University of Arkansas Press, has won the prestigious Miller Williams Poetry Prize.
Parker, who previously won the Kinereth Gensler Book Award for her 2013 poetry collection Viral, said she has been working on Feed for the last three years and is thrilled to see it recognized – and released – by an esteemed publishing house like Tupelo.
“As a writer, I had always dreamed of having a book published, and there were always presses I hoped to be the ones to put out my books,” said Parker. “I have been lucky enough to have not one but two of my dream presses– Alice James and Tupelo – publish my books.
“Feed is a collection of poems that explore the sensual pleasures in life – art, food and language,” she added. “Many of these poems explore the role of need in shaping observation, noting the gap between desire and reality and the heightened friction of that charged space.”
Parker – who also serves as director of Brookdale’s annual Visiting Writers Series – received her award on June 22 at the annual Sunken Garden Poetry Festival in Farmington, Connecticut, one of the oldest such festivals in the nation. She joined fellow award winner Heather McHugh to kick off the festival with a reading from Feed.
The book, which was been described as “a collection of poems that shimmer with a kind of linguistic iridescence, their beauty and power rooted in the sheer intensity of the author’s gaze,” can be purchased here.
The Wild Night Dress will be McCullough’s third poetry book in as many years and one of more than a half dozen published in the last decade, including the 2011 Kinereth Genseler Award-winning collection Panic, which was selected as a finalist for Foreword Book of the Year. McCullough was also selected by acclaimed poet Sherman Alexie to be a featured artist in 2015’s Best American Poetry collection.
Her latest book, set to hit shelves in February 2017, was selected for the Miller Williams prize by none other than Billy Collins, a former U.S. poet laureate and one of the most widely recognized names in all of contemporary poetry.
“It is a collection of poetry that explores the death of my mother and the start of the collapse of my twenty year marriage; so it’s a book about grief,” said McCullough. “But it also explores science and nature. Billy Collins said he selected it because of its blend of science and lyricism.”
When asked to explain the recent string of successes by members of the Brookdale English department, McCullough chalked it all up to hard work and passion.
“It takes a long time to get even competent in something, and people work a long time in art before they begin to ‘hit,’ so to speak,” she said. “My first book came out in 2006, but I’d been writing for twenty years [by then].
“I encourage my students to read. Read everything,” she added. “Take classes. Write every day. It’s like an instrument. You must study the greats, the ones who are your contemporaries and writing right now, and you must get competent – which can take a very long time – before you break rules. Or don’t listen to me at all. Just write. Find friends who write. Believe yourself into it.”
To learn more about Brookdale’s Creative Writing program, the free Visiting Writers Series and other services offered for aspiring wordsmiths, click here.