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University of Utah Press Launches the Agha Shahid Ali Prize in Poetry

April 29, 2002 — The University of Utah Press, the book publishing division of the University of Utah, will launch an annual poetry competition and publication prize in spring 2003, honoring the late poet Agha Shahid Ali. The nationally recognized author of numerous collections of poetry, Agha Shahid Ali was a professor in the University’s Department of English until his untimely death due to cancer on December 8, 2001. A public memorial service will be held Sunday, May 5, from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the Language and Communication Building on the University campus.

According to David W. Pershing, senior vice president for academic affairs at the U, “This prize will honor Shahid by honoring annually, in his name, an exceptional book of poems. The award will bring national attention to both our distinguished creative writing program, in which Shahid was deeply beloved, and to the literary excellence of our University press.”

Press director Jeffrey Grathwohl welcomes the opportunity to provide another publishing venue for poetry. “The current popularity of this venerable literary genre is heartening, of course. But regardless of fashion, poetry has always been, and will always be, an enduring form of human expression. It is a timeless and indispensable way of framing a response to our experiences and our world.”

The press will administer the competition and prize in cooperation with the Department of English. As Stuart Culver, chair of the department, notes, “Shahid’s poetry is unique both for the range of literary traditions it engages and for the richness of his lyric vision. He was a warm, generous, and enthusiastic teacher for whom students felt both admiration and affection.”

Book-length poetry manuscripts will be accepted by the press during the month of March only, beginning in 2003. Finalist manuscripts will be forwarded to a competition judge, and the winning entry will be published the following year in April, during National Poetry Month. Complete submission guidelines for the competition will be available on the press Web site,, by this fall.

For more information, contact Dawn Marano, acquisitions and developmental editor, The University of Utah Press, 801-581-6771.