Melissa Range wins National Poetry Series competition

Lawrence University Assistant Professor of English Melissa Range has been named one of five national winners in the annual Open Competition sponsored by the National Poetry Series.

Melissa Range

Range was selected for her second collection of poems entitled “Scriptorium,” which was selected for the award by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Tracy K. Smith. The award includes a $10,000 prize. “Scriptorium” will be published next fall by Beacon Press.

“Scriptorium,” which Range started in 2006 and completed earlier this year, takes its name from the medieval scriptorium, where monks would create illuminated manuscripts and other written works. Range’s “Scriptorium” explores the relationship between standardized, official languages and vernacular languages, particularly as they play out in religious settings. It features poems about medieval art, poetry and theology, as well as poems about the Appalachian slang of Range’s upbringing.

“It’s both humbling and incredibly affirming to be chosen for the National Poetry Series, particularly by judge Tracy Smith, a poet whose work I admire,” said Range, who joined the Lawrence faculty in 2014. “The journey from a jumble of poems to a book of poems is arduous and takes a great amount of time, from writing it, revising it, figuring out how it fits together, what its arc is, what it’s trying to say. Even when you’ve finished a book, there’s no guarantee it will be published. Publication is a gift and one for which I’m extremely grateful.”

This is the second major award Range has received in the past year. Last December, she was named one of 36 national recipients of a $25,000 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship in Creative Writing.

“Melissa is an extraordinarily talented creative artist,” said David Burrows, provost and dean of the faculty. “She has helped make our writing and poetry program extremely strong. We are very proud of her achievement as the winner of this award.”

Range earned her Ph.D. in English and creative writing from the University of Missouri. She earned her bachelor’s degree in English and creative writing from the University of Tennessee, her master’s degree in creative writing from Old Dominion University and also holds a master of theological studies from the Candler School of Theology at Emory University.

She previously has been recognized for her creative writing for poetry with the 2011 Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Prize and the University of Missouri’s teaching award for creative writing in 2013.

Her first book of poetry, “Horse and Rider: Poems,” centers on violence and power in religion and the natural world.

Based in Princeton, N.J., the nonprofit National Poetry Series was founded in 1978 to promote “excellence in contemporary poetry” by publishing five poetry books annually through its Open Competition. Previous notable winners of the prize include Terrance Hayes, Adrian Matejka, Marie Howe and Eleni Sikelianos.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College” and Fiske’s Guide to Colleges 2016. Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.