TampaReview
TampaReview

Eric Smith, winner of 2017 Tampa Review Prize

Published: Aug 21, 2017

Eric Smith, of Carrboro, North Carolina, has won the sixteenth annual Tampa Review Prize for Poetry for his collection of poems, Black Hole Factory. In addition to a $2,000 check, the award includes hardback and paperback book publication in 2018 by the University of Tampa Press.

Smith’s poems have been published in 32 Poems, Southwest Review, The New Criterion, and the Best New Poets anthology. His critical prose appears in Pleiades and The Rumpus, and is forthcoming in the AWP Writers' Chronicle. He was a founding editor of cellpoems, the innovative and award-winning poetry journal distributed via text message, and he has received scholarships and fellowships from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and Convivio, among others. He is an assistant professor of English at Marshall University, in Huntington, West Virginia, and divides his time between West Virginia and a home in North Carolina.

Tampa Review judges praised his manuscript for its exploration of an impressive range of traditional poetic forms while building an innovative, personal voice:

“Eric Smith writes with a commitment to the history and craftsmanship of the well-shaped poem, but his use of tradition, rhyme, and meter become sources of surprise and innovation in his hands. The book has poems that communicate impressive control, intellect, and wit—poems that cultivate ironic self-awareness and detachment on the part of both poet and reader. And then there are breakthrough moments giving up both irony and control. In the end, he has shaped a profound and accomplished manuscript of deep personal engagement graced by moving, open flights of lyricism.”

Smith was born in Carrollton, Georgia, and lived in Michigan, Florida, and Spain before moving to West Virginia in 2010. He earned his BA at the University of West Georgia, an MA from Northern Michigan University, and an MFA from the University of Florida.

Smith says that his interests in form are wide-ranging.

“I do think rhyme and meter are important. But that’s not to say these tools are more important than any others,” Smith says. “These just happen to be ones that work for me. I’m perpetually astonished by my contemporaries who dare the limits of form, who put new pressure on language and on the sentence.”

“It’s not a stretch to connect that interest in form and restraint to cellpoems, ” he adds. ”My friend Christopher Shannon, an incredible poet and the founding editor of cellpoems, introduced me to the work of Lorine Niedecker, who says in “Poet’s Work”: “No layoff / from this / condensery.” We took that, I think, as an imperative—both for the kind of work we published in the magazine, and also in the work we were ourselves attempting to do.”

Smith is currently working on a second collection of poems, as well as a collection of critical essays on contemporary poetry.

This year the judges also announced ten finalists:

Aaron Baker, of Chicago, Illinois, for "Posthumous Noon”;

Charlie Bondhus of Bridgewater, New Jersey, for “Divining Bones”;

Polly Buckingham of Medical Lake, Washington, for “A Day Like This”;

Donna L. Emerson of Petaluma, California, for “The Place of Our Meeting”;

Jonathan Greenhause of Jersey City, New Jersey, for “Our Recurring List of Heartbreaks”;

Emily Mohn-Slate of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for “The Falls”;

Jim Peterson of Lynchburg, Virginia, for “The Horse Who Bears Me Away”;

Nicholas Samaras of West Nyack, New York, for “The World as Smoke and Distance”;

Maureen Seaton of Miami, Florida, for “Undersea”; and

Randall Watson of Houston, Texas, for “The Geometry of Wishes.”

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 2018. Entries should follow the published guidelines and must be received online or postmarked by December 31, 2017.

Complete guidelines are available here.