Ronk Wins PEN Award
Martha Ronk, Irma and Jay Price Professor of English Literature at Occidental College, has been awarded a 2005 PEN Center USA Literary Award for “In a Landscape of Having to Repeat,” her collection of poetic meditations on repetition.
Ronk, who has taught at the college since 1980, won the top honor in the “Best in the West” poetry category. The awards program honors literary excellence in 10 disciplines, which also includes fiction, creative nonfiction, research nonfiction, children’s literature, translation, journalism, drama, teleplay, and screenplay. The competition recognizes works published in 2004 by writers living west of the Mississippi River. Winners receive a $1,000 cash prize at PEN’s Literary Awards Festival, a gala dinner to be held Nov. 9 at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles.
“In these lean, clean blank verse and prose poems, Ronk plays with how creatures of habit and selective repetition attempt to repeat once-and-only-once experiences that cannot without difficulty be repeated,” PEN Center judges wrote in a statement. “The poems are narrative and semi-narrative views of landscape, moving toward, away from and through Ronk’s linguistic flora, Freud’s dream theories, (and) Eva Hesse’s intentionally deteriorating props and sculptures.”
Ronk has published seven volumes of poetry and three chapbooks.
“I am startled and awed actually by the sudden connection between the more private moments of writing and this more public moment and the idea of readers,” Ronk said. “I am honored to have received this award and am so very pleased to be in the company of those who have received it previously.”
Past poetry winners include Nobel laureate Czeslaw Milosz, and Norman Dubie, Susan Rich and Carl Rakosi.
PEN Center USA established its regional annual awards program in 1982. This year’s judging panel included writers, editors and journalists who reviewed more than 500 entries in the various categories. The Culver City center was founded in 1943 and incorporated as a nonprofit in 1981. Its membership includes more than 1,200 poets, playwrights, essayists and novelists – hence, the acronym PEN – as well as television and screenwriters, critics, historians, editors, journalists and translators.
PEN Center USA strives to protect the rights of writers around the world, to stimulate interest in the written word, and to foster a vital literary community among the diverse writers living in the western United States.