Creative writing professor judges 2014 Pulitzer Prize for poetry

Philip and Patricia Frost Professor of Creative Writing. Guggenheim fellow. MacArthur “Genius.” FIU’s Campbell McGrath can now add Pulitzer Prize judge to his impressive resume.

McGrath was one of three jurors selected to judge the 2014 Pulitzer Prize in poetry. The judges were sent a copy of each poetry book published last year, around 300 volumes, and asked to select three finalists.

Campbell McGrath

Campbell McGrath

“I don’t know how they picked me, but they did,” McGrath said. “I received an email from the Pulitzer board at Columbia University. I thought ‘Wow, this is exciting!’ The fact they found me is a great feeling. It’s an honor to have your opinion valued like this.”

This year’s Pulitzer Prize winning poetry book is 3 Sections by Vijay Seshadri, a poet, essayist and literary critic from Brooklyn, NY. The Big Smoke, by Arian Matejka, and The Sleep of Reason, by Morri Creech, were also finalists. According to McGrath, each judge selected his or her top three choices and sent them, without rank, to the Pulitzer board. The board then settled on the winner.

“It’s a really good book. They’re all very good books and they’re all very different,” McGrath said. “Sometimes there are great poets with a career’s worth of wonderful works who have never won a Pulitzer. Maybe their book is in the running and you feel they deserve a Pulitzer, but maybe not for that particular book. You have to go with the ones you think are the best of the year. That’s how we did it. It just so happened we chose three younger poets who produced three excellent, really diverse books.”

McGrath, who joined FIU faculty in 1993, has published nine collections of poetry, including free-verse, long-form and documentary poems about American history and culture. He has been awarded various honors throughout his career, including The Pushcart Prize and a United States Artists Fellowship.

McGrath currently serves as chairman of the board for O, Miami, a non-profit based in Wynwood that produces a visiting writer series, an annual poetry festival and literary programs that benefit a diverse cross-section of the local population.

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