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Syracuse University, College of Arts and Sciences

SU's Bruce Smith wins Poetry Society of America award

His "Devotions" collection keeps racking up honors, awards

April 25, 2012, by Rob Enslin

Bruce Smith
Bruce Smith
Bruce Smith, professor of English in Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences, has won the William Carlos Williams Award, presented by the Poetry Society of America (PSA). The critically acclaimed poet was nominated on the merit of his latest book, "Devotions" (University of Chicago Press, 2011). The same collection has also led to his being named a finalist for the National Book Award (NBA), the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.

Smith is the author of five other volumes of poetry, including "The Other Lover" (University of Chicago Press, 2000), which was a finalist for both the NBA and Pulitzer Prize.

“As a poet, teacher and scholar, Bruce is a major source of inspiration to our students, and has helped put us on the literary map,” says Arts and Sciences Dean George M. Langford.

In the PSA award citation, renowned poet and author Elizabeth Macklin writes:  “Bruce Smith has seemingly inhaled the entire English language to date, and in ‘Devotions,’ he uses those words and half-words with a wild tact that draws a reader onward, quick-wittedness overcoming dread. Each poem here is a stand-alone object, in which short rhythms nest inside longer rhythms, which in turn persist within the still longer rhythm of the whole. Nothing is purposeless.”

Smith provided a glimpse of "Devotions" more than a year ago, when he read at The SU Humanities Center’s “Faculty Works” series. “His writing has always been rhythmic,” says Gregg Lambert, who serves as Dean’s Professor of the Humanities and as founding director of The SU Humanities Center. “’Devotions’ reads like a good jazz solo. It bristles and pops, but keeps you hanging on to every line.”

Since then, critics have lavished praise on the poet. Publisher’s Weekly, which named "Devotions" one of the top books of 2011, considers it Smith’s “best collection yet.” The New York Times Book Review characterizes "Devotions" as “ambitious, agile, and unpredictable, as well as viscerally affecting.”

The William Carlos Williams Award is named for the influential poet most often associated with Modernism and Imagism. The award is endowed by the family and friends of Geraldine Clinton Little, a poet, author, and former vice president of the PSA, and is given to the deserving author of a book of poetry who resides in the United States.  

PSA, the nation's oldest poetry organization, was founded in 1910 to create a public forum for the advancement, enjoyment, and understanding of poetry.