September 16, 2020

West Chester University Alumna Earns Poetry Honor


Karen SkolfiedThe 20th annual Massachusetts Book Awards were announced on September 9th and a West Chester University alumna has earned top honors. Karen Skolfield, English ’94, won the Poetry Prize for her poetry collection Battle Dress (Norton, 2019).

The Massachusetts Book Awards recognize significant works of fiction, nonfiction, poetry and children’s young adult literature published by Massachusetts residents or about Massachusetts subjects.

Skolfield says, “I loved my time at West Chester University as it set me on the poetry path. I had always loved writing but had no formal study, no serious feedback on creative writing until my classes with now-retired faculty members Chris Buckley and Luanne Smith. My years at WCU were occasionally disrupted by work, the military, and personal bumps in the road, and when I returned to taking classes I had to maneuver around my hefty work schedule. I told Chris Buckley that I couldn’t take his poetry workshop - taking it would mean I’d arrive late almost every class. He told me to sign up anyway, not worry about being late. I did, and here I am 30 years later, still writing poems, still publishing. Now, when I have students in the same situation and they come to me, wanting to be in my classes but knowing they’ll have issues with good attendance, I tell them my story and that I’m going to give them the same understanding that Chris gave me, with one caveat: I want them to remember and to pay it forward with another kindness.”

About Karen Skolfield - Karen Skolfield is the poet laureate for Northampton, Massachusetts, for 2019-2021. Her book Battle Dress (W. W. Norton, 2019) won the Massachusetts Book Award in Poetry and the Barnard Women Poets Prize. Her book Frost in the Low Areas (Zone 3 Press) won the 2014 PEN New England Award in poetry and the First Book Award from Zone 3 Press, and is a Massachusetts “Must Read” selection.

Skolfield is also the winner of the 2016 Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize in poetry from The Missouri Review, the 2015 Robert H. Winner award from the Poetry Society of America, and the 2015 Arts & Humanities Award from New England Public Radio.

Skolfield has received fellowships and awards from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Split This Rock, Ucross Foundation, Hedgebrook, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the Vermont Studio Center. Her poems can be found in 32 Poems, Alaska Quarterly Review, Baltimore Review, Boulevard, Carolina Quarterly, Cimarron Review, The Cincinnati Review, Crab Orchard Review, Crazyhorse, Guernica, Indiana Review, Iowa Review, Memorious, Missouri Review, New Ohio Review, Pleiades, Ploughshares, POETRY Magazine, RHINO, Shenandoah, Sixth Finch, Slice, Sugar House Review, Superstition Review, Washington Square Review, Waxwing, and elsewhere.

Skolfield is a U.S. Army veteran and teaches writing to engineers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she earned her Master of Fine Arts.

About the West Chester University Poetry Center - The West Chester University Poetry Center was created in 2000 to further the study and appreciation of Poetry. The Poetry Center offers an active, interesting and diverse slate of activities, all to expand its mission of bringing poetry to an ever-widening audience.




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