On behalf of the University of Akron Press, I would like to send my congratulations to Rachel Dilworth of Gig Harbor, WA, whose book The Wild Rose Asylum: Poems of the Magdalen Laundries of Ireland was selected by Rita Dove as the winner of the 2008 Akron Poetry Prize.
About the winning manuscript, Rita Dove wrote:
Robert Penn Warren said, “Historical sense and poetic sense should not, in the end, be contradictory, for if poetry is the little myth we make, history is the big myth we live, and in our living, constantly remake.” The history behind the ravishing poems in Rachel Dilworth’s first book, The Wild Rose Asylum: Poems of the Magdalen Laundries of Ireland, is almost too much to be fathomed. Eschewing the stridency of political correctness and the well-intended pity of the confessional, Dilworth reaches beyond mere reportage or sensationalism to chronicle the institutionalization of supposedly “wayward” women in Ireland’s religious-run “Magdalen asylums,” and the maddening rationales of a society where women were all too often judged obedient or dangerous, servant or temptress, but ultimately expendable. The testimonies rendered here are stark yet fiercely lyrical, bearing witness to generations of lost women and lost freedom: to Mary Norris, who sneaks to the toilet to piece together newspaper scraps she smuggles from the trash in order “to hold the world close;” and to young Bridget, so like the wild fuchsia, with its “bloodshine petal” and “amaranthine heart.” Amazingly, even in the midst of horror, beauty endures. The crushing litany of sexual violence in “Oh Rose—His Dark Secret Love” is all the more harrowing for its insistence upon precision and eloquence, until all that remains are the roses, standing in mute witness: “Red as cuts, as cheeks perspiring, / these blooms startle the bush that yields them.” From terza rima to the “Body Sonnets,” ballads to transcribed inventories, the poems of The Wild Rose Asylum give to the women of the Magdalen Laundries a voice that “sharpens the air.”
For complete information on the contest, including a listing of finalists and semifinalists, please click here. For guidelines for next year's contest, click here. Thanks for your support, and thank you to all who submitted this year!
I would also like to announce that Map of the Folded World by John Gallaher of Maryville, MO, is this year's editor's choice manuscript in the Akron Series in Poetry, and will be published in Spring 09, with the hope of being ready in time for AWP 09 in Chicago. We have just released the 2008 editor's choice, The Bride Minaret by Heather Derr-Smith, and it is now available for purchase.