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Syracuse University, College of Arts and Sciences

SU's Dana Spiotta, Bruce Smith finalists for National Book Critics Circle awards

Spiotta and Smith up for "Stone Arabia" and "Devotions," respectively

Feb. 3, 2012, by Rob Enslin

Dana Spiotta
Dana Spiotta

Dana Spiotta and Bruce Smith, English faculty members in Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences, have been named finalists for the National Book Critics Circle awards. Spiotta was nominated in the fiction category for “Stone Arabia” (Scribner, 2011); Smith in the poetry category for “Devotions” (University of Chicago Press, 2011). Winners of the NBCC awards will be announced at a ceremony on Thursday, March 8, at 6 p.m. at the New School’s Tishman Auditorium (66 West 12th St., New York City).

Praised by The New York Times Book Review as “a work of visceral honesty and real beauty,” “Stone Arabia” is Spiotta’s third novel. The story concerns the complicated relationship between Denise Kranis and her brother, Nik Worth, who is a failed musician. Dramatic complications ensue when Denise’s daughter decides to make a movie about Nik, who is intent on keeping his art private.

Spiotta serves as assistant professor of English, and teaches in the college’s acclaimed creative writing program. She received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2007 and the Rome Prize in Literature a year later. Her other novels are “Eat the Document” (Scribner, 2006), which was a National Book Award finalist and a recipient of the Rosenthal Foundation Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and “Lightning Field” (Scribner, 2001).

Bruce Smith
Bruce Smith

Like Spiotta, Smith is a literary heavyweight who teaches in SU’s creative writing program. “Devotions” marks his fifth book of poetry and his second for which he was nominated for an NBA. He was a finalist for both the NBA and Pulitzer Prize for “The Other Lover,” published by the University of Chicago Press in 2000.

Smith describes each poem in “Devotions” as a kind of ode—a meditation on a single subject that is skewed toward a devotional, and has its own internal rhymes and echoes. “The acoustic qualities of poetry supply a beat, a pulse and a value not found in the semantic values of the words,” says Smith. “My relationship to sounds is like my relationship to my kid making noise in the other room; I wish she’d be quiet, but I love her, and I can’t help listening to and being moved by the sounds.”

“Devotions” was also named one of 2011’s best poetry books by the New Yorker, San Francisco Chronicle and American Library Association.

Founded in 1974, the NBCC is a nonprofit organization of book reviewers and critics that honors outstanding writing, and fosters a national conversation about reading, criticism and literature, in part through annual awards for the year’s outstanding books. Books are directly nominated and chosen by leading book critics. The NBCC offers the unique opportunity for professional critics to recognize and reward literary excellence.