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Vermont Writers Win PEN Awards

State of the Arts


Published March 20, 2013 at 11:08 a.m.

PEN New England passes judgment on works of fiction, poetry and nonfiction by writers around the region, and honors a scant few each year. In 2013, PEN’s award recipients include two Vermonters, both of them professors emeriti of the University of Vermont. Former UVM English prof David Huddle, a novelist and poet, won the prize for poetry with his 2012 collection, Blacksnake at the Family Reunion. Wrote reviewer Keenan Walsh, “Consistently, we encounter the tension of difficult intimacy, silence in the midst of words held back.”

The nonfiction award was captured by Bernd Heinrich, UVM prof emeritus of biology, for Life Everlasting: The Animal Way of Death. While that may sound grim, Heinrich describes the book as not so much about how creatures die as about how the animal kingdom recycles itself and “how scavengers cleanse the world so there’s room for new life.” Could be some lessons there for us humans. As book critic Margot Harrison put it in her Seven Days review: Heinrich “wants us to think differently about what scavengers do to corpses — animals’, plants’ and ours.”

Huddle and Heinrich join fiction winner Heidi Julavits (The Vanishers) and Hemingway/PEN winner Kevin Powers (The Yellow Birds) — excellent company. Congrats.

PEN New England Awards: The awards ceremony, presented by Irish novelist, poet and critic Colm Tóibín, is this Sunday, March 24, 2 to 3 p.m. at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston.