Dr. Brent Newsom, associate professor of English and chair of the Division of Language and Literature at OBU, has won the Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award for Poetry. The prestigious award is supported by Maureen Mahon Egen, a member of the Poets and Writers board of directors. The award provides promising writers a network for professional advancement. Poets and Writers is the nation’s largest nonprofit organization serving creative writers.
Each year, the organization selects one state and invites writers from that jurisdiction to apply for the Writers Exchange Award. For 2020, the state of Oklahoma was chosen. Applications from Oklahoma writers were reviewed by poetry judge Délana R.A. Dameron and fiction judge Eugene Lim.
The Writers Exchange Award offers writers an unusual opportunity to meet agents, editors, authors and other professionals in the literary community. Usually, the winners spend a week in New York City meeting with over a dozen literary professionals selected from their personal wish lists. Due to the pandemic, however, the introductions this year were moved online.
In the past, as a direct result of winning the Writers Exchange Award, writers have had their books published, received fellowships, secured teaching positions and laid the groundwork for their professional lives as writers. The award has helped to launch the careers of Sue Monk Kidd (“The Invention of Wings”, “The Secret Life of Bees”) and Lidia Yuknavitch (“The Book of Joan”), among others. To date, 106 writers from 42 states and the District of Columbia have participated.
Newsom was greatly encouraged to receive the Writers Exchange Award for Poetry. He is very grateful for the opportunities the award gives to improve his craft as a poet and to connect with professionals in the national literary community. It has also connected him to a mentorship with a well-known and highly-regarded poet, as Newsom develops a new collection of poems.
Newsom teaches courses in literature, composition, editing and creative writing on Bison Hill, and he loves connecting with students who have a passion for reading and writing. An important part of his work is helping students explore the relationship between their faith and their studies. He credits his experience teaching at OBU with helping him think through this connection more fully as a writer.
Newsom also relishes the opportunity to share his love for poetry with his students.
“Poetry often seems intimidating to students because they think a poem is a riddle they must solve,” he said. “Instead, I try to help students see a poem as a way of exploring human experience through language and imagery that surprise us out of our routine ways of looking at things and show us something true.”
Newsom believes that the study of poetry is a noble pursuit and especially valuable to students in today’s technology-dominated culture.
“When we read good poems attentively, we emerge with a fresh perspective on the world in some way,” he said. “When we write good poems, we create that possibility for our readers. This strikes me as a very valuable experience in an age dominated by mass communication and the degradation of truthful speech in the public square. It’s also worth noting that other forms of creative writing — stories, novels, plays, and others — can also do this well. But I think poetry does it in a more concentrated way.”
Newsom is the author of the poetry collection “Love's Labors” and the librettist for “A Porcelain Doll,” an opera created in collaboration with Dr. Jim Vernon, Burton H. Patterson Professor of Music. He also writes fiction, for which he received a Fulbright grant, as well as book reviews. He co-edits “Ink & Letters: A Curated Journal of Art, Creativity, and Christian Faith” along with Corey Fuller, chair of the Division of Art and Design and associate professor of graphic design.
A 2003 OBU graduate, Newsom earned a Master of Arts in English in literary studies from Louisiana State University and Ph.D. in English in creative writing from Texas Tech. He returned to Bison Hill to join the faculty in 2012.
Newsom’s poetry has been published in selected journals, including “The Southern Review,” “The Hopkins Review,” “Birmingham Poetry Review,” “Cave Wall,” “Tar River Poetry,” “PANK,” “Subtropics,” “Measure,” “Louisiana Literature,” “Windhover,” “Rock & Sling,” and “Relief.” His poems have also appeared in selected anthologies, including “Best New Poets 2010” (Samovar Press, 2010), “Mamas and Papas: On the Sublime and Heartbreaking Art of Parenting” (City Works Press), and “The Gulf Stream: Poems of the Gulf Coast” (Snake Nation Press, 2013). His poetry has also received book reviews in selected journals, including “Christianity and Literature,” “Pleiades Book Review,” “New Letters,” and “Hiram Poetry Review.” He is a member of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs, the Academy of American Poets, and the Conference on Christianity and Literature.
Newsom was born and raised in DeRidder, Louisiana, a town of about 10,000 not far from the Texas border. He has also lived in China, Texas and Oklahoma. Newsom loves to travel and, in addition to China, has explored Turkey, Costa Rica, England and a few major cities in Europe. Newsom and his wife Amanda have two children, ages 11 and 8. Other interests include intramural basketball and listening to music.
Read excerpts from the winning manuscripts as well as a complete list of past winners.
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