DU Student Awarded Poetry Prize
The University of Iowa Press has awarded PhD creative writing student Alicia Mountain its 2017 Iowa Poetry Prize for her book of poetry High Ground Coward. Since 1987, the prize has been awarded annually for an unpublished poetry collection. Only poets with previously published work were eligible until 2001, when the award was opened to all poets.
High Ground Coward is Mountain’s first book, to be published by University of Iowa Press in spring 2018. She was pleased to learn that this year’s entries were judged by Brenda Shaughnessy, a poet and author whose book Our Andromeda was influential on Mountain’s own work.
“Alicia Mountain looks at every tiny thing very closely, and in doing that, conveys the big picture of a vast inner life with marvelous clarity and depth,” Shaughnessy writes. “Her voice is intimate, brash, always precise, heartbreaking in both its vulnerability and its authority … High Ground Coward is a dazzling debut by a rare, true talent.”
Mountain acknowledges the contributions of her reader-friends and mentors who have given her advice along the way.
“At DU, I've had wonderful support from my English department faculty and classmates,” Mountain says. “This past year, while I was working as a graduate teaching assistant at DU's Shopneck Writing Center, I received powerful encouragement from Dr. Juli Parrish, who invites creative writers like me to put our skills to use by working with all sorts of writers across the DU community.”
For Mountain, pursuing a PhD in creative writing was a commitment to taking her poetry career more seriously. Beyond words on paper, she wants to use her work to expand the field and take poetry out into the community.
Last year, she took Writers in the Schools, a course in which PhD students taught poetry lessons to elementary school students in Denver Public Schools. “I'm hopeful that the little poets I got to know will continue to read, write, and love words,” Mountain says.
Mountain believes opportunities like this — ones that blur the lines between campus and community — enable students not only to engage with the larger community by supporting literary arts and social justice, but also to develop as more ethical writers and scholars.
“My time at DU, and the folks I work with here, reinforce my beliefs that poetry can be a space for justice work, resistance and rebuilding,” she says.