TU English professor named semifinalist for National Book Award for poetry

By Jan Lucas on September 14, 2017

Leslie Harrison is among 10 writers being considered for coveted award

Towson University's Leslie Harrison is on the National Book Foundation’s so-called longlist for The Book of Endings, her second collection of poems.

She and her fellow nine semifinalists were selected from nearly 250 submissions for the annual honor, long considered one of the most prestigious literary awards in the country.

The National Book Foundation describes The Book of Endings (University of Akron Press) as an attempt “to make sense of, or at least come to some kind of reckoning with absence—the death of the author’s mother, the absence of the beloved, the absence of an accountable god, cicadas, the dead stars arriving, the dead moon aglow in the night sky.”

Read Leslie Harrison’s poem, [I Would Drive to Your Grave]

Harrison was born in Germany and raised mostly in New Hampshire. She holds graduate degrees from The Johns Hopkins University and The University of California, Irvine. Her poems have appeared in journals including Poetry, The New Republic, The Kenyon Review, FIELD, Subtropics, Pleiades, Orion and elsewhere.

Her first book of poems, Displacement, was published by Mariner Books in 2009.  

Harrison has held a scholarship and fellowship at The Sewanee Writers’ Conference and a fellowship at The Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. In 2011 she was awarded a fellowship in literature from The National Endowment for the Arts. She was the 2010 Philip Roth resident in poetry at Bucknell University, and then a visiting assistant professor in poetry and creative nonfiction at Washington College.

Read about Leslie Harrison in The Sun.

Harrison joined TU’s Department of English faculty in 2012 and has taught 13 different courses on campus. Topics included literature, creative nonfiction, and a poetry workshop.  

“We have some gifted writers,” Harrison said of her Towson University students. “Three of my former students are now enrolled in MFA in creative writing programs.

“I launched The Book of Endings at TU last February,” she added. “I’d love to do a reading here.”

Dr. Terry A. Cooney, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, spoke to the significance of the book award nomination.

“Leslie Harrison’s National Book Award nomination provides unmistakable recognition of the quality of her work,” Cooney said. “It is a wonderful thing when months and years of effort and revision, and self-doubt and commitment, which are the hallmarks of faculty creativity and scholarship, blossom in appreciation and celebration.

“Professor Harrison is part of a very talented group of writers in the Department of English,” Cooney added, “and this establishes a new level of acknowledgment of the quality of work being done there.”

The National Book Foundation will publish the names of five finalists on October 4; this year’s winner will be announced at a ceremony to be held in New York City on November 15.

This story is one of several related to President Kim Schatzel's priorities for Towson University: TU Matters to Maryland and Strategic Plan Alignment.