U doctoral student awarded literary prize

By By Niccolo Barber, Staff Writer

By Niccolo Barber, Staff Writer

Kathryn Cowles, a creative writing doctorate student and teacher at the U, recently won the 2008 Dorothy Brunsman Poetry Prize from Bear Star Press for her poetry collection Eleanor, Eleanor, not your real name.

Each year, Bear Star Press holds a competitive contest for new voices in the poetry genre, awarding $1,000 and publication to the winning manuscript. Cowles’ manuscript was also a finalist for Western Washington Press, Saturnalia and Waywiser Press.

Cowles’ passion for poetry began when she was in high school. Raised in a talented musical family, she began exploring poetry through song lyrics.

“Song lyrics are completely different from poetry,” Cowles said. “Lyrics have another medium to supplement them. Writing poetry is more difficult, but equally rewarding.”

As she continued her studies, Cowles’ lyrical writing evolved into poetry.

“I feel like just reading, and reading a lot of poets causes my own poetry to change,” Cowles said. “Not in an imitative way, but reading other poets causes you to see the world differently.”

Paisley Rekdal, an associate professor in the English department, said Cowles’ poetry has a playful tone.

“Her poetry has changed throughout the years,” Rekdal said. “They are lively, intelligent poems; very inventive. Her musical training also comes through in her work.”

In Eleanor, the poems all work together, Cowles said. The more poems one reads sequentially, the more understandable they become.
Cowles said she was shocked when she heard the results of the Brunsman prize. Describing herself as a bashful poet when it comes to the publishing world, this was Cowles’ first published poetry collection.

“Artists in general are no good at all in the business of publishing,” she said. “Essentially, I got lucky.”

Cowles is currently working on another collection of poems which she plans to defend for her doctoral dissertation. Her dissertation also uses a visual medium, as Cowles uses photograph collages to supplement her poems.

After she receives her doctorate, Cowles said she will pursue a career in the collegiate world.

“Initially, I was nervous about turning poetry into a teaching career,” she said. “But I was doing it all the time, so I figured I might as well.”

The faculty is proud of Cowles’ accomplishments and looks forward to following her future endeavors.

“Kathryn is one of a prestigious and, I believe, long line of such students.” Rekdal said. “We all congratulate her.”

The U’s doctorate Creative Writing program is among the top five in the nation, according to The Atlantic Monthly, and is the home of several other published students.

“Our program is renowned for graduating students who go on to have successful and exciting literary careers,” Rekdal said.

Among such graduates is Pam Houston, award-winning author of the short-story collection Cowboys Are My Weakness, and poet Craig Arnold, winner of the Rome Prize in literature.

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Kathryn Cowles