Honoring the best writing to appear in its pages in the past year, the Virginia Quarterly Review today announced the winners of its annual writing prizes for 2005. “I’m delighted by the forward-looking selections made by the committee this year,” says Ted Genoways, VQR’s editor. “We published an amazing array of established writers this year—Nobel Laureates, Pulitzer Prize winners—but the committee chose to honor work by younger writers. These writers may be early in their careers, but they are major talents.
“I am pleased by the selections in nonfiction,” continues Genoways. “Both of these essays confront the difficult subject of the physical realities of death. Martin Preib, for years a driver of the morgue’s ‘dead wagon’ in Chicago, describes being the first on the scene of suspicious deaths. Pauline W. Chen, a transplant surgeon, explores the difficulty of assessing the moment of death in brain dead patients. In both cases, the authors approach the subject matter with dignity, humanity, and a lyric intensity that is unexpectedly life affirming.
“In the fiction and poetry categories, the committee chose to recognize the work of two writers who have published in VQR in the past but whose new work shows a new level of achievement. Brock Clarke and Natasha Trethewey are both significant writers who are writing as well as anyone of their generations. We will look back and be proud to have published these works.”
The VQR Prize Winners for 2005:
Staige D. Blackford Prize for Nonfiction:
Pauline W. Chen for “Dead Enough?: The Paradox of Brain Death” (Fall 2005 issue)
Dr. Chen is the recipient of numerous awards including the UCLA Physician of the Year Award in 1999 and the George Longstreth Humanness Award at Yale for “most exemplifying empathy, kindness, and care in an age of advancing technology.” Her first book, Final Exams: A Young Surgeon’s Reflections on Mortality, will be published by Knopf in 2006.
Martin Preib for “The Wagon” (Summer 2005 issue)
Preib was born in Chicago and lived much of his life outside Detroit. He has worked as a small town journalist, a union reformer in Chicago, and spent ten years as a doorman—all before becoming a cop. “The Wagon” is his first nationally published work.
Emily Clark Balch Prize for Short Story:
Brock Clarke for “The Ghosts We Love” (Summer 2005 issue)
Clarke is the author of two collections of stories, Carrying the Torch (Nebraska, 2005; winner the Prairie Schooner Book Prize for Short Fiction) and What We Won’t Do (Sarabande, 2002; winner of the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction), and a novel, The Ordinary White Boy (Harcourt, 2001). He is an associate professor of English at the University of Cincinnati.
Emily Clark Balch Prize for Poetry:
Natasha Trethewey for two poems in the Summer 2005 issue: “Pilgrimage” and “Scenes From a Documentary History of Mississippi”
Trethewey is the author of three collections of poetry: Domestic Work (Graywolf, 2000; winner of the Cave Canem Poetry Prize and the Lillian Smith Award for Poetry), Bellocq’s Ophelia (Graywolf, 2002; winner of a Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Book Prize), and Native Guard, forthcoming from Houghton Mifflin in March 2006. She lives in Atlanta where she is an associate professor of English and creative writing at Emory University.
The Emily Clark Balch Prizes for short story and poetry were established in 1955. Past recipients include Wendell Berry, John Berryman, Hayden Carruth, Carolyn Forché, Donald Hall, Mary Oliver, and May Sarton. The Staige D. Blackford Prize for nonfiction, established in 2003, is named for the seventh editor of VQR who retired in 2003 after guiding the magazine for 28 years. Recipients are chosen by the editorial advisory board of VQR. Each prize includes a monetary award of $1,000.