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JMU poet is finalist for Library of Virginia Literary Award

jmuLauren Alleyne, assistant director of the Furious Flower Poetry Center at James Madison University and an associate professor of English, is one of three finalists in the poetry category for the Library of Virginia’s 23rd annual Literary Awards.

The finalists were chosen by an independent panel of judges from more than 130 books nominated. The winner in each category – fiction and nonfiction are the other categories – will be announced Saturday, Oct. 17, during a virtual celebration at the Library of Virginia.

Alleyne was nominated for her most recent book, “Honeyfish.”

Why do you write poetry?

Oh, goodness, for so many reasons! To understand the world. To understand myself.  To heal. To witness. To inspire. To be inspired. To remember. To mourn. To celebrate. To document. To be.

How long did you work on “Honeyfish?”

The poems in “Honeyfish” range from 2011 to 2019. I will say that I wasn’t working on a book, per se, but writing individual poems, and they coalesced into what became “Honeyfish.”

What do you hope readers take away from “Honeyfish?”

I am wary of prescribing what people should take away. I know that through the poems, I was able to think about place and what it means to be from somewhere, to live somewhere you’re not from, to visit other places. It was a journey for me that connected so many parts of my life. For many readers, the book itself will be a strange place they visit, and all I can hope is that they have a rewarding journey through it.

Did writing “Honeyfish” inform your teaching?

Teaching keeps me on my toes, and writing keeps me honest in my teaching. I often had to remind myself to take my own advice, to cut a line I liked, or go deeper in a poem, or to let something sit because it wasn’t ready despite my pushing. I love teaching poetry because all I’m doing is sharing my practice, and what I’ve learned along the way with my students and then practicing alongside them!

What else would you like to say about “Honeyfish” or the award nomination?

I want to say how incredibly honored I am to have been recognized in this way. That it is a library award. I adore libraries and librarians! That it is here in Virginia is already a double win because it represents an intersection of the intellectual community and the regional community, the mind space and physical space I inhabit. To know my work resonated so resoundingly among the members of those communities is humbling and thrilling!

To learn more about Alleyne and her writing, visit her website.

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