Five NMU grads considered among best new poets

Chelsey Roath

Five graduates from Northern Michigan University’s graduate programs in English will be featured in this year’s Best New Poets anthology.

Lisa Fay Coutley, Brandi George, Adam Houle, Sarah Wangler, and Eric Smith will represent 10 percent (5 out of 50) of the Best New Poets who will appear in the anthology, published annually by the University of Virginia.

Each February, Best New Poets contacts writing programs and literary magazines and sends them instructions on how to nominate their writers. This year programs and magazines had until April 2, 2010 to make nominations. After that date, they contacted their nominated poets and asked those writers to upload their work between April 5 and May 20.

“It’s a huge accomplishment to be chosen for this anthology. “It’s also amazing that NMU was able to take 10 percent of the winners,” said Ray Ventre, head of the English Department.

According to Ventre, there were over 1,500 submissions to the contest with each submission included one or two poems. Assuming the minimum number of submissions, that’s about a 3 percent chance that any one poet will be among the final 50, he said.

“It’s a huge accomplishment to be chosen for this anthology,” Ventre said.

“I submitted poems for consideration because the Best New Poets anthology is thoughtfully selected, well-designed and offers a clear idea of what kind of writing is out there, especially among those of us without books,” said Eric Smith, one of the NMU poets featured in the anthology.

Smith, who currently teaches at Marshall University, and is managing editor of cellpoems, a literary magazine that distributes through text messaging.

“Poems have to be tested. I don’t write only for myself, but to make a thing that is smarter than me, and will outlast me.” Smith said.

Adam Houle is a Ph.D. student at Texas Tech and holds an MA from Northern Michigan University. Houle was shocked when he received the news.

“My wife and I were just sitting on the front porch when I decided to go check my e-mail and there it was,” Houle said. “It really makes me feel validated.”

The Best New Poets of 2010 will be available in stores in mid-October.  It will be published by the University of Virginia.

Each author is an NMU graduate, and has had poetry previously published.

Sarah J. Wangler is an MFA candidate in poetry at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Oklahoma. She also holds an MA in English from NMU. Her work has been published in Cardinal Sins, Di Mezzo 11 Mare and the Superstition Review.

Adam Houle is a Ph.D. student at Texas Tech and holds an MA from NMU. His work has appeared in the Southeast Review, Meridian, Dogs Singing, and elsewhere.  He is an associate editor at Iron Horse and 32 Poems.

Brandi George’s poems, which have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and the Ruth Lily 2010, have appeared or are forthcoming in Cimarron Review, Fugue, Harpur Palate, Quercus, The Dirty Napkin, and Entasis. Brandi received her M.A. in Literature from NMU in 2008.

Lisa Fay Coutley is the author of two books, “Back Talk” and “In the Carnival of Breathing”, winner of the Fall 2009 Black River Chapbook Competition. She received her MFA from NMU and is currently pursuing her Ph.D. at the University of Utah as a Vice-President Fellow.

Eric Smith graduated from the University of Florida with an MFA and holds an MA from NMU. His poems appear in Five Pints, and Green Mountain Review. He teaches at Marshall University and is managing editor of cellpoems.