Published: Aug 17, 2016
Nancy Chen Long of Morgantown, Indiana, has been named winner of the 2016 Tampa Review Prize for Poetry. Long receives the fifteenth annual prize for her manuscript, Light into Bodies. In addition to a $2,000 check, the award includes hardback and paperback book publication in 2017 by the University of Tampa Press.
Long is the author of a poetry chapbook, Clouds as Inkblots for the War Prone (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2013), and has recent and forthcoming work in Alaska Quarterly Review, Pleiades, Bat City Review, Superstition Review, DIAGRAM, the Anthology of Contemporary Indiana Writers, and elsewhere. She earned her BS in Electrical Engineering Technology and an MBA from Indiana University—Purdue University Fort Wayne, worked as an electrical engineer, software consultant, and project manager, and more recently completed an MFA in creative writing at Spalding University.
Tampa Review judges praised her “bold, intelligent, beautifully shaped manuscript” and commented that the poems in Light into Bodies clearly benefit from the poet’s strong scientific background. “Starting with the opening epigraph from Sir Isaac Newton’s Opticks and developing through vocabulary and metaphors informed by mathematics and engineering as well as by myth and literature, Nancy Chen Long has composed a shining suite of poems in which cultural and scientific history merge with and illuminate personal experience,” the judges wrote.
Born in Taiwan, Long grew up in various parts of the U.S. as the daughter of a military man. She calls south-central Indiana home and works at Indiana University in the Research Technologies division.
“I’ve loved poetry and writing since I was a kid,” Long says. “And because I was also a bookworm, I handcrafted books of my poems and stories—illustrated them, carefully folded the pages and stapled them together for the binding, gave them ‘library numbers’ like I’d seen on real books.
“When considering college, creative writing was my first career choice. I was strongly counseled, though, that ‘female writers are a dime a dozen’ and that I should go into something like science instead. So I stopped writing creatively and eventually ended up in engineering and technology. I did continue to journal and scribble down small poems, but didn’t seriously write poetry again until years later when an acquaintance suggested that I attend a women’s writing circle. That experience inspired me to once again take up the pen. I started writing and writing. Things fell into place so that I could pursue an MFA part-time while still working full-time. As a sort of joke, I’d say I felt like I was living Pablo Neruda’s line ‘And it was at that age . . . Poetry arrived / in search of me.’ The poems kept arriving until a manuscript took shape.”
Long sent the manuscript out for three years before it was selected for the Tampa Review Prize for Poetry, and it had been a finalist fifteen times during that period.
“Through interviews with other poets and attending AWP panels on publication, I’d heard of poets whose manuscripts came in as finalists for ten years before being published,” Long says. “When I got the call that Light into Bodies had won the Tampa Review Prize for Poetry, I could almost not believe it. The whole experience has been one wild ride, beautifully unexpected. It’s the realization of a dream that I thought had been lost to me.”
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The judges also announced ten finalists this year:
Sally Lipton Derringer of Nanuet, New York, for “Tilted Room”;
Mary Gilliland of Ithaca, New York, for “The Devil’s Fools”;
Roger Greenwald of Toronto, Canada, for “The Half-Life”;
Shaun Griffin of Virginia City, Nevada, for “The Monastery of Stars”;
Julie Hanson of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for “Dialectic and Infusion”;
Kate Partridge of Anchorage, Alaska, for “Ends of the Earth”;
Jim Peterson of Lynchburg, VA, for “The Horse Who Bears Me Away”;
Doug Ramspeck of Lima, Ohio, for “Naming the Field”;
Nicholas Samaras of West Nyack, NY, for “The Kidnapped Child”; and
Jay Udall of Vienna, Virginia, for “Because a Fire in My Head.”
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The Tampa Review Prize for Poetry is given annually for a previously unpublished booklength manuscript. Judging is by the editors of Tampa Review, who are members of the faculty at the University of Tampa. Submissions are now being accepted for 2017. Entries should follow the published guidelines and must be postmarked by December 31, 2016.
Complete guidelines are available at www.ut.edu/tampareview or by sending a self-addressed, stamped envelope to The Tampa Review Prize for Poetry, University of Tampa Press, 401 West Kennedy Blvd., Tampa, FL 33606.