Friday, September 7, 2012

Katharine Coles will judge 2013 Blanchan/Doubleday writing competition

Katharine Coles in Antarctica

Katharine Coles will serve as the judge for the 2013 Neltje Blanchan and Frank Nelson Doubleday writing awards.

These awards are designed to bring attention to writers who have not yet received wide recognition for their work, and to support emerging writers at crucial times in their careers. Poets, fiction writers, essayists, and script writers who have published no more than one book in each genre and who are not students or faculty members are invited to apply by submitting manuscripts and an entry form by the deadline.

The Neltje Blanchan Award, $1,000, is given for the best poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, or script which is informed by a relationship with the natural world.

The Frank Nelson Doubleday Award, $1,000, is given for the best poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, or script written by a woman author.


Applications are being mailed today to those on the Wyoming Arts Council literary arts lists. A printable application is available on the WAC web site at

Coles will travel to Wyoming next spring or summer for a reading with the Blanchan and Doubleday awardees. Details will be available in February 2013. 

Katharine Coles’ fifth and sixth collections of poems, The Earth Is Not Flat and Flight, are forthcoming in 2013 and 2015 from Red Hen Press.  Her poems, essays, and stories have appeared in such journals as The Paris Review, The Gettysburg Review, Poetry, Image, Seneca Review, North American Review, Southwest Review, DIAGRAM, and Ascent.  In 2009-10, she served as the inaugural director of the Harriet Monroe Poetry Institute for the Poetry Foundation. She is a professor at the University of Utah, where she founded and co-directs the Utah Symposium in Science and Literature. She is a 2012 Guggenheim Foundation Fellow.

In 2010, she traveled to Antarctica to write poems under the auspices of the National Science Foundation’s Antarctic Artists and Writers Program. Here is Coles speaking about her trip to Antarctica and how it influenced her writing:

In 2010, I was in Antarctica for a month during the Astral summer, returning home on the solstice that marks the Southern Hemisphere’s longest day and the Northern Hemisphere’s shortest.  I wanted to go the Antarctica for precisely the reason many people though I was crazy to do so: because it’s about as far “out there” as a person can get without actually leaving the planet.  In my own case, the voyage included a four-day boat trip each way across the Drake Passage, the world’s most notorious ocean crossing.  It was wonderful.  As a poet, I am most inspired by the places in which I am most foreign and least comfortable—and I’ve never been more foreign or less comfortable than when looking up sixty feet from the bottom of a trough to the top of its wave. 

Of course, while I was on the ice I thought and wrote about penguins and krill, about lichens and global climate change and the fragility of ecosystems.  I also thought and wrote about perception and illusion, about how we know what we think we know.

Though I have always written about nature, I haven’t until recently thought of myself as a “nature poet.”  This is partly because I’ve always been most interested in nature in the sense that scientists conceive it—as “Nature” with a capital “N,” which includes not only what we can observe with our senses also the deeper reality that gives rise to it, which is the proper object of study for physicists, mathematicians, neurologists, and philosophers.  In Antarctica, I was constantly dumbfounded by the gorgeous strangeness of the landscape around me, which was open to the gaze.  And, as I learned about the extent to which that landscape was an illusion made of light reflected and refracted by water, ice, and sky, I became even more astonished.  If what I could see was beauty, what was there to be understood was Beauty.  They are the same, but not exactly.

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