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SU's Bruce Smith a finalist for LA Times Book Prize

February 23, 2012

Rob Enslin
(315) 443-3403

Bruce Smith, professor of English in Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences, has been named a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. The critically acclaimed poet was nominated on the merit of his latest book, “Devotions” (University of Chicago Press, 2011). The same collection has led to his being named a finalist for the National Book Award (NBA) and, more recently, the National Book Critics Circle Award.

smithSmith is the author of five other volumes of poetry, including “The Other Lover” (University of Chicago Press, 2000), which was a finalist for both the NBA and Pulitzer Prize.

“I am extremely proud of Bruce’s recent accomplishments,” says Arts and Sciences Dean George M. Langford. “As a poet, teacher and scholar, he is an undisputed star of the college. His work is a major source of inspiration to our students, and has helped put us on the literary map.”

At last fall’s NBA ceremony in New York, Smith was awarded the following citation: “'Devotions' is … virtuosic in its range of diction, allusion and association, and rich in its propulsive linguistic variety, rhyme, rhythm and wisdom. Below each moment of adoration, rage. Within each rant, a lament.”

The Syracuse resident provided a glimpse of “Devotions” more than a year ago, when he read at the SU Humanities Center’s Faculty Works series. “His writing has always been rhythmic,” says Gregg Lambert, who serves as Dean’s Professor of the Humanities and as founding director of the SU Humanities Center. “'Devotions' reads like a good jazz solo. It bristles and pops, but keeps you hanging on to every line.”

Since then, critics have lavished praise on the poet. Publisher’s Weekly, which named “Devotions” one of the top books of 2011, considers it Smith’s “best collection yet.” The New York Times Book Review characterizes “Devotions” as “ambitious, agile and unpredictable, as well as viscerally affecting.”

Winners of the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes will be announced at a public ceremony on April 20 at the University of Southern California. The event prefaces the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, the nation’s largest public literary festival, to be held at USC on April 21-22.

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