The Honickman Foundation

2009 APR / Honickman First Book Prize Winner

Laura McKee, Uttermost Paradise Place

For about ten years prior to winning the 2009 APR/Honickman First Book Prize in Poetry, Laura McKee – a big fan of persistence – was hard at work writing and submitting her poetry for publication.

The Solution
I found a flight suit in the dryer this weekend.
The zippers were hotter than hell when it first emerged
as if it were the machine's inaugural attempt at creation.
When it fit perfectly, I realized it was perfect.
Suit, I salute you. You have changed my questions.
From now on, "What will I wear? I will wear the suit."
Never again, "What will I wear? Those pants.
But what shirt?"

"Although I had been published in magazines and journals including Mid-American Review and Rhino, I made a conscious choice that what I really wanted was to get my manuscript published as a book. I always try to push my writing towards a larger work because as a context-oriented person I often think about how something fits into a larger picture. I had some really good readers for this manuscript who helped me to narrow and rearrange the poems, allowing the manuscript to snap into focus."

Laura feels very honored and grateful for having her first book published as a result of winning this prize because to her APR is the heart of the poetry-writing community.

"Sometimes I feel like moving forward as a writer is a long-distance race in a big, noisy community. And in that community, APR has one of the best lit houses. If I were in that town I'd say, 'I want to go to that house.' And, unlike other competitions, the judge doesn't just select the winner, but also writes the introduction to the published work which is a very powerful way to get one's work published."

Since publishing Uttermost Paradise Place, Laura has done many local readings in Seattle, continues to work at Cornish College of the Arts as Associate Registrar, and dove into working on her new manuscript Drusy which, as of early 2010, is very close to being done.

"The fabulous thing about the timing of this prize was that since I had just finished Uttermost Paradise Place I was able to clear my mind and focus on my next work, and was able to channel the momentum of being chosen for the prize into very focused work on my new poems. The timing of the prize had a very wave-like effect in moving my next work forward."

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