Campus Life

Winner of 2016 May Swenson Poetry Award Announced

PHOTO: MaySwensonAward_PatriciaMurphy - Caption: Patricia Murphy is the recipient of the May Swenson Award, a prize presented by USU Press. She is the author of the forthcoming collection of poems "Hemming Flames," published by USU Press.

Patricia Colleen Murphy, of Phoenix, Arizona, is the winner of the 19th annual May Swenson Poetry Award, presented by Utah State University Press and the Literary Estate of May Swenson. Murphy will receive a cash award of $1,000, and her winning collection of poems, Hemming Flames, will be published by USU Press in the summer of 2016.

Judge for the 2016 award was Stephen Dunn, American poet, teacher and essayist and winner of a Pulitzer Prize for poetry. The Swenson competition receives hundreds of entries each year from across the United States and several countries abroad. Dunn selected Murphy’s work from among 27 finalists chosen by a panel of professional poets and university teachers of poetry. Dunn described Murphy’s work.

“The curious title of Patricia Murphy’s wonderfully disturbing ‘Hemming Flames’ doesn’t become clear to us until the last poem in the book. . . . As if the act of writing itself is an attempt to hem what can’t easily be hemmed.”

A well-published poet, Murphy holds degrees from Miami University and Arizona State University. She teaches creative writing at Arizona State University where she is the founding editor of the literary magazine Superstition Review. Her poems have appeared in many journals, including The Iowa Review, Quarterly West and American Poetry Review. Her poems have received awards from Glimmer Train Press, The Southern California Review, Gulf Coast, The Madison Review and Bellevue Literary Review.

Dunn is Distinguished Professor (emeritus) of creative writing at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, and has also taught at Columbia University, NYU, University of Michigan, Princeton and the University of Washington. He is the author of 16 collections of poetry, including the most recent Lines of Defense (Norton, 2014) and Here and Now (Norton, 2011). His poem “The Imagined” is included in The Best of the Best American Poetry: 1988-2012 (Scribners, 2013), and he has been the featured poet in The American Poetry ReviewThe Georgia Review and The Cortland Review

The May Swenson Poetry Award is named for May Swenson and honors her as one of America’s most provocative and vital writers. During her long career, Swenson was loved and praised by writers from virtually every school of American poetry. She left a legacy of 50 years of writing when she died in 1989. She is buried in Logan, Utah, her hometown.

Utah State University Press, a division of USU’s Merrill-Cazier Library and imprint of the University Press of Colorado, is an award-winning scholarly publisher in several academic fields.

More acclaim for Hemming Flames:

These are searing reports from the far side of the human dimension, acts of pure familial survival — charged, compelling, complex.  We read searching with the speaker for an answer to the singular question one poem poses, “Where are you, gravity?”  These are hard-felt, intimate, and genuine.   

— Alberto Ríos, poet laureate of Arizona

This book isn’t trying to make you feel better — a mother’s many suicide attempts, violence, extreme insecurity — this book is devastating. And it is exactly Murphy’s refusal of the blithe, and her refusal to move or look away from agony, that might make our world less of a disaster. 

—Sarah Vap, author of Viability

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University Press

Contact: Michael Spooner, (720) 406-8849,

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