Patty Seyburn, an assistant professor of English at CSULB, was named the winner of the 2008 Green Rose Prize in Poetry by the editors of New Issues Poetry and Prose for her third book titled Hilarity.
The Green Rose Prize is awarded to an author who has previously published at least one full-length book of poems. Seyburn, who joined the CSULB faculty in 2006, won a $2,000 award along with her prize and will see the publication of her manuscript by New Issues Press, a literary press associated with Western Michigan University, inspring2009.
"I feel thrilled to win the Green Rose Poetry Prize,"Seyburn said. "It's a wonderful prize and the New Issues Press is a wonderful press with strong poets at its head."
Seyburn has published two books of poems — Mechanical Cluster from Ohio State University Press in 2002 and Diasporadic from Helicon Nine Editions in 1998, which won the 1997 Marianne Moore Poetry Prize and the American Library Association's Notable Book Award for 2000. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals including The Paris Review, New England Review, Field, Slate, Crazyhorse, Cutbank, Quarterly West, Bellingham Review, Connecticut Review, Cimarron Review, Third Coast and Western Humanities Review.
Seyburn grew up in Detroit, earned a B.S. and M.S. in journalism from Northwestern University, an MFA in poetry from UC Irvine, and a Ph.D. in poetry and literature in 2003 from the University of Houston. She is co-editor of POOL: A Journal of Poetry, based in Los Angeles.
The title of her third bookcomes from the phrase "the emergence of hilarity," meant to describe the appearance of a sense of humor in infants. Hilarity deals with such themes as generational change and children, including a group of verses she thinks of as "dream poems" with titles representing times of night such as "1:21 am" or "4:55 am."
"I had insomnia when I was pregnant with my daughter. I thought at first, 'I'm middle class; I don't have sleep problems,' but I was still awake. On the other hand, it was my first child so I could afford to be awake. I didn't have to be angry with myself for being awake and I could use the time," Seyburn recalled. "'The Emergence of Hilarity' is the concluding poem in the book. It is a long narrative piece that describes from my perspective the emergence of laughter from the Pleistocene Era to the present that ties in children, prayer and the fortunate missteps that redirect our lives."
She believes one reason New Issues Press crowned her work with the Green Rose Poetry Prize was the recognition in her work of a voice that is both accessible and layered. "My poetry offers provocation without trying to alienate," she explained. "I try to convey to the reader a poet who reaches out to the reader but to whom the reader must come partway as well. I'm pleased with that. A lot of the poetry I don't like is so opaque; it seems dismissive of the reader's efforts, time and concerns."
She thinks Hilarity is an imaginative book. "The language is very musical and engaging. Like all poets, I'm concerned with love, time and death but there is still room to write poetry about how our families and lives manifest themselves in interesting ways," she said.
The Green Rose Poetry Prize represents critical validation to Seyburn. "I never thought poetry would bring me fame and money. I'm not crazy," she said with a laugh. "But it is very important to me to get my work out there. I do reviews for Poetry International, the Journal and Slope, and I read work that is not good, and I read work that is wonderful. Sometimes when you are published, you feel, 'Aha, quality does out.' But then you read the poetry you don't like and you realize poetry is not always a meritocracy.
"For me, this prize represents a kind of validation that I have done my best and that I have a unique voice to offer," she added. "It makes me feel a little better known, which is lovely. It all seems more real."