Sarah Kortemeier, Library Director at the UA Poetry Center, is the recipient of the 2019 Felix Pollak Prize, awarded by the University of Wisconsin Press.
Kortemeier is recognized for Ganbatte, a collection of poems that follows its speaker around the world, asking: what does it mean to experience history as a tourist? How does identity shift when we speak in different languages? This collection faces outward, embracing a global perspective in a time when nationalist impulses are on the rise worldwide.
“I’m enormously honored to be part of the Wisconsin Poetry Series, which I’ve admired for many years. This is my first book of poems, and I’m so grateful to Carl Phillips and the University of Wisconsin Press for their belief in my work,” Koremeier says.
According to judge Carl Phillips, professor of English at Washington University in St. Louis, “The poems of Ganbatte use language to give us what photography can’t, always, a sense of the interior, of the sensibility of place and of what has happened there—story and history, Hansel and Gretel and the Holocaust and Hiroshima.”
Kortemeier holds an MFA in Poetry and MA in Library and Information Science from the University of Arizona.
“The Pollak Prize is such a well-deserved honor!” says Tyler Meier, Executive Director of the Poetry Center, which is part of the College of Humanities. “Sarah’s work ethic is unparalleled. Whether she’s managing details in the Poetry Center’s collection or fine-tuning her own poetry manuscript, her approach is rigorous, joyful, and driven by curiosity. You can see those qualities in her poems, and I think you can see those qualities in the Poetry Center too, through Sarah’s presence and effort.”
Kortemeier’s book, along with two other prize winners and two honorable mentions, will be published over the next year by the University of Wisconsin Press as part of the Wisconsin Poetry Series, edited by Ron Wallace and Sean Bishop. The Brittingham and Felix Pollak Prizes in Poetry are awarded annually to the two best book-length manuscripts of original poetry submitted in an open competition. The Felix Pollak prize was founded in 1994 and honors Felix Pollak, a major Wisconsin poet and former curator of the Rare Book Room and Little Magazine Collection in the University of Wisconsin–Madison libraries. More than 900 submissions were reviewed for this year’s awards cycle.