March 29, 2021

UW-Superior Writing Professor, Jayson Iwen, Nominated for Pulitzer Prize

The University of Wisconsin-Superior has been home to many outstanding writers, with more than 50 articles and books published by faculty and staff to date. However, it’s a rare and crowning achievement to have a book nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Jayson Iwen, UW-Superior professor of Writing and Language and Literature Department chair, joined the ranks of Pulitzer Prize-nominated authors this summer when his book-length series of persona poems, Roze & Blud, was nominated for a Pulitzer by his publisher, the University of Arkansas Press.

Roze & Blud is an examination of the thoughts and feelings of fictional characters inspired by Iwen’s lived experience. The book is a series of story poems about the working poor, as one reviewer called them, written in the characters’ voices.

“Most of my books evolve over time,” said Iwen. “This one was originally just going to be about a salty older gentleman, Blud, but it evolved to include Roze, a young woman. One of the best compliments I’ve received was one reviewer saying they didn’t realize the poems in Roze’s voice weren’t written by a woman until they were finished reading and looked again at my name.”

Roze & Blud has been nominated in the Pulitzer Verse Award category. It also won the Miller Williams Poetry Prize, was a finalist for the National Poetry Series and the Green Rose Prize, as well as a semi-finalist for the Wheeler Prize and the Brittingham and Felix Pollak Prizes.

The Pulitzer Prize selection process includes a jury that reads through all of the nominations and narrows it down to three per category. Those are sent on to a Pulitzer Board who read them and select a winner. At this point, Iwen does not know if his book has been selected as a finalist or not, but winners will be announced April 19 at 2 p.m. CST at Columbia University. The event will be live streamed and open to the public. Event information will be forthcoming at pulitzer.org.

Iwen has written 18 books to date, of which four have been published. Poetry is his specialty.

“I love all forms of literary art, but poetry is my favorite," he said. “I like it because it cuts to the chase; it’s what remains when you take away all that is unnecessary.”

Iwen said his own writing and the process of publishing books has benefited his classroom instruction. “I definitely talk about my own creative process with my students, but I don’t use my books in class. I wouldn’t feel right about requiring students to buy my books.”

When asked what’s next for him as an author, Iwen said he’s working on a lyrical memoir about food.

“One of my children decided to become a vegan, so my wife and I chose to join him,” he said. “It’s been a learning experience. I’m trying to write recipes and what we’ve learned as poems. It’s an interesting creative challenge.”

Iwen has taught at UW-Superior since 2011, instructing creative writing, literature and English courses. He was described by Emma Kimball, one of his former students, as, “A professor that is often well-loved by his students, and for good reason. He’s relaxed [and] isn’t afraid to be real with his students … He encourages student creativity and is not judgmental.”

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