McGrath’s book of poems, In the Kingdom of the Sea Monkeys, earned gold medal winner status in the poetry category. Often witty and sometimes serious, the book is a collection of poems about love, books, literature, and the occasional pomegranate purchase at Walmart.
“Sea monkeys are a symbol for memory,” said McGrath, who admitted to being a fan of sea monkeys as a child. “You often saw ads for sea monkeys and you’d buy them, but they never really turned out to be what they’re really supposed to be. Memory is like that. It’s not always the same, you add some parts and you remove some parts. Writing poetry is about remembering your past, this book is a tribute to that.”
McGrath, who joined the faculty at FIU in 1993, earned a Master of Fine Arts at Columbia University in 1988. This is the second Florida Book Award for McGrath. In 2008, he was a silver medal winner for Seven Notebooks. Throughout his career, he has also earned a Guggenheim fellowship, a MacArthur Foundation “Genius Award,” and a United States Artists fellowship.
Dennis Lehane MFA ’01, creative writing alumnus and internationally-renowned novelist, also earned gold medal honors in the general fiction category for Live By Night. The novel follows Joe Coughlin, the son of a Boston police captain turned mobster during the prohibition era of the 1920s. Lehane is also the author of bestsellers Mystic River, Shutter Island, and Gone, Baby, Gone, all of which have been made into major motion pictures.
“It seems to be a long-standing tradition with our faculty and alumni to be honored with this award,” said James Sutton, chairman of the Department of English. “It’s a testament to the strength, rigor and vitality of the great writing in our state and FIU’s Creative Writing Program. Part of writing is innate genius, but there is a craft to it. Students that come to study with our faculty will learn discipline, how to write well and how to succeed in the real-world.”
The 2012 Florida Book Award recipients will be recognized in Tallahassee with a banquet, awards ceremony, and luncheon hosted by First Lady Ann Scott in March. The Florida Book Awards was established in 2006 to recognize, honor and celebrate the best Florida literature published each year. It is coordinated by the Florida State University Libraries and is co-sponsored by a consortium of institutions.
“It feels great, it’s an honor,” McGrath said. “I love the idea of the Florida Book Awards, they bring attention to Floridian literature, the arts and culture. This is an award unique to our home state, so it’s important.”