North Texas Daily

First Voertman prize winner announced at Rilke prize reading

First Voertman prize winner announced at Rilke prize reading

April 10
01:44 2013

Michael Wood


Paisley Rekdal, 2013 Rilke prize winner, read from one of her poems, “I’ve been in more laps than a napkin.” As the crowd roared she broke the reading to say “I love that line, it’s so good. But it’s not true.” The warmly lit Golden Eagle Suite was packed with people who came to celebrate Rekdal’s poetry as well as wait for the winner of the newly founded Voertman prize to be announced.

Rekdal visited UNT last night to read from her winning book “Animal Eye.” She also judged entries for the UNT Voertman prize and selected English and creative writing doctoral candidate Justin Bigos for his poem titled “Three Rivers.”

Bigos said he was flattered to be chosen by Rekdal for the Voertman prize.

“I read her book and hoped she would win the Rilke prize,” Bigos said. “She’s an important poet.”

Bigos said he has been writing for 15 years. He majored in history and creative writing and is now working toward a doctorate in English and creative writing.  He said his winning poem is an mournful poem dedicated to a friend who took her own life.

“This is a huge honor and I feel very lucky to win this award,” Bigos said. “My peers are also very talented. It could have been any of us.”

Rekdal’s winning book “Animal Eye” concerns too many topics to easily reduce to a theme although, as the title suggests, animals and the way they view the world are central to the book. The cover depicts two fighting birds, twisted in a struggle for dominance. Rekdal said the concept of fighting and negotiation was important to her.

“Fighting is a dark corner of intimacy,” Rekdal said. “In all types of relationships we constantly negotiate, and this interconnectivity comes at a great cost.”

Her intellect would often meander across several different subjects when addressing queries and stated her style of writing does the same, allowing her poems to roam and take their own form. Rekdal was witty, frank and answered questions with both a tongue-in-cheek hyperbole and sincere thoughtfulness.

“That poem almost ruined my life,” Rekdal said when asked about a specific piece in her book. “I know a poem is dead as soon as I know what I want it to do.”

Associate English professor Dr. Gabriel Cervantes said he came to the event after reading one of Rekdal’s poems. He feels poetry is important for everyone, not just creative writing majors and teachers.

“I was ravaged by the poem’s intelligence and am pleased the Rilke prize is here at UNT,” Cervantes said. “Poetry allows people to think through today.”

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