Month: July 2015

Literary Summer, Part 2: Five Poetry Books to Read

Our newly expanded Juniper Prize for Poetry and Juniper Prize for Fiction will be open for submissions August 1-September 30. Please see Juniper Literary Series for details. Who will be #JuniperPoet40?

If you read our Literary Summer post last month and already finished that list, you’re in luck! To complement your fiction reading, this month we offer you some of the highlights of our Juniper Literary Prize for Poetry. Here are five UMass Press publications for a literary summer:

Dana Roeser’s The Theme of Tonight’s Party Has Been Changed

Filled with the struggles of misfortune and the anxieties of modern life, a stand-up comic narrator takes into her world where life is spinning out of control. Roeser’s poetry is sharp, witty, and powerful as it captivates its reader in a performance of the self.

 “I//wake in the dark/trying to assemble//a lexicon,/to make a coherent//line-in the dark/I scratched//words on top of each/other on a//pad by the bed”



Brandon Dean Lamson’s Starship Tahiti

Described as a creation myth in reverse, Lamson explores cityscapes and contemporary urban culture through an object9781625340092ive lens. From Rikers Island to Grand Central Station to the Chesapeake Bay, the reader questions the communal and the personal, the secular and the sacred.  As reviewer Yusef Komunyakaa wrote, “If we’re looking for the truth, Starship Tahiti gets to the quick, but hones an edgy grace.”

“The fragile, in between state of larvae hatching/is no less desirable that full bloom in a city of/roses, if such a city can ever be found.” – “Portland Bardo” by Brandon Dean Lamson



Robert Francis’s Collected Poems, 1936-1976

Did you know that our annual Juniper Prize is named in honor of Robert Francis? He built a small house for himself near Cushman Village here in Amherst, which he called Fort Juniper. UMass Press has published three book of Francis’s work. In this edition, we find seven previous volumes of Robert Francis poetry alongside a group of recent works. Following the journey of a modern American classic, readers can make their way through a history of poetry and of Francis himself.

 “The sky is on fire with blue/and wind keeps ringing, ringing the fire bell.”

– “Cold” by Robert Francis


Eleanor Lerman’s Come the Sweet By and By

When UMass Press launched the Juniper Prize for Poetry in 1975, we were one of the first university presses to publish contemporary poetry. Eleanor Lerman was the first recipient of the honor. The themes of love and survival emphasize an inherent question of faith: will the love that’s left be enough to get you through your last day?

“There will come gentle monsters unto your door/sick with radiation/bringing the love that is purer/with atomic cleansing/Keep them as your last children” – “There Will Come Gentle Monsters” by Eleanor Lerman




Eleanor Wilner’s maya

Long and rich with complexities, the poems of Wilner’s maya take the reader through a revision of tradition and make a statement of their own. In them, a number of women, men, and other creatures are set free from their respective myths and returned to luck. Divided into five sections, this captivating first volume truly represents the goals of the Juniper Prize.

 “It seemed so effortless in its suspense,/perfectly out of time and out of place.” – “Landing” by Eleanor Wilner


Emily Esten is an Editorial Intern at UMass Press. She is a junior History/Digital Humanities major at UMass Amherst. 

Looking at Atticus Finch through an Educator’s Eyes

The provocation of Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman demands that scholars, readers, and fans reconsider Atticus Finch.

Amherst College professor Austin Sarat, editor of Reimagining To Kill a Mockingbird: Family, Community, and the Possibility of Equal Justice under Law, said he welcomes the new Atticus as “a kind of wake-up call that the struggle for rights is two steps forward, one step back. And it’s a struggle that requires collective action, not just individual, idealized heroes.”

In the collection Reimagining To Kill a Mockingbird,  Sarat and co-editor Martha Umphrey, also an Amherst College professor, gather essays that explore Lee’s classic through the interdisciplinary prism of law and humanities scholarship. Using both the film and novel, they see Atticus’s defense of Tom Robinson as a linchpin moment in the nation’s narrative of racial progress. They see the story as profoundly pedagogical, one that strives to teach us ways of overcoming prejudice and to live with one another in a better and more just world.

Anticipating the contradictions and complications made evident in Go Set a Watchman, the essays in Reimagining To Kill a Mockingbird trouble the mythology of the story and its hero. They pose provocative contemporary theoretical and interpretive questions: How does one come to belong to, even to be recognized as “human,” within this community? How should we understand the sacrifices characters make and are asked to make in the name of justice and comprehend their failures in achieving it?

Please see our website for more information on the book: