Literary Summer

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. 


Literary Summer, Part 1: Five Fiction Books to Read

Now that summer has finally arrived, you may be looking for a good beach read, vacation favorite, or simply another title to add to your to-read list. UMass Press sponsors the Juniper Literary Prize for Fiction and Grace Paley Prize for Short Fiction. Here are five UMass Press publications to enjoy a literary summer:

My Escapee by Corinna Vallianatosmy escapee

Our 2012 Grace Paley Prize winner, Valliantos’s My Escapee, provides an intimate look into the lives of women: their thoughts, their hopes and dreams, and the stresses of friends and family. The characters find themselves stuck “in-between” – in between loyalties and confusing identities. This stunning debut will bring a whirlwind of emotions to the reader, from sadness to glee.

“I always thought she was beautiful. The process of her aging was better known to me than it would have been to a husband, and I was sympathetic to it.”

gunEveryone Here Has a Gun by Lucas Southworth

Anton Chekhov famously noted that if a story introduces a gun in the first act, that gun must go off by the third. However, in Southworth’s Everyone Here Has a Gun, they are rarely fired – instead, the guns serve as the catalyst for tension and extreme emotions. As the 2013 winner of the Grace Paley Prize, the intricate narratives of fantasy and reality describe our own search for comfort and stability in a world that is ultimately too violent and incomprehensible.

“The blackness is a kind of deadly mirror; it has the cleanest glass, the clearest.” 

A History of Hands by Rod Val Moorehistory of hands

The winner of 2014 Juniper Prize for Fiction, Moore’s A History of Hands is a powerful and thrilling novel that takes place in Depression-era California. Verge, an awkward young man still suffering from the effects of a childhood poisoning, finds himself paralyzed and unable to afford a doctor’s visit. As luck would have it, a mysterious physician moves in with Verge to heal him free of charge. In its exploration of the ambiguities of health and freedom, A History of Hands presents an extraordinary read

“And they appear as if in a kind of real life, larger than real life perhaps, and all of this in a blighted year, a blighted era.” 




Bewildered by Carla Panciera

Our 2014 winner of the Grace Paley Prize for Short Fiction, Panciera’s Bewildered  takes us through ten short stories to ask one question: can you live any way forever? While the characters vary in gender, age, marital status, and even narrative style, they all evoke the reader’s empathy as stories of unfulfilled dreams, the desire to belong, and the fear of what comes next unfold on each page.

 “This is a world of secret-sharers, a noisy world full of unimaginable silence.”




9781625341372Desert Sonorous by Sean Bernard

As the newly proclaimed “bard of the desert,” Sean Bernard takes us on a journey through the American Southwest in the Juniper Prize winning Desert Sonorous. Set in his hometown of Tucson, Bernard blends realism and experimentation for a portrait of the modern era. These vivid characters, from undercover aliens to cross-country athletes, handle contemporary issues as part of a quest for life’s deeper meanings.

 “I am from a place that is dry, he thought, and there is so little you take what you can and make it matter.”



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