Two area writers are featured in noted national anthologies released this month. Catherine Pierce’s poem “Relevant Details” is a selection in “The Best American Poetry 2015,” out Sept. 8. Becky Hagenston’s short story “The Upside-Down World” is featured in “The O. Henry Prize Stories for 2015,” in bookstores Sept. 15. Both writers are associate professors in the Mississippi State University English Department.
This will be a second appearance in “The Best American Poetry” for Pierce. The premier anthology of contemporary American poetry, published by Simon & Schuster, is edited by novelist, poet and National Book Award winner Sherman Alexie and David Lehman.
Pierce’s poem first appeared in the literary magazine Pleiades.
“It is an examination, and ultimately a defense, of memory’s inconsistencies — the way we confuse and conflate different nights we’ve had or movies we’ve seen or museums we’ve visited, and how that misremembering could, in some ways, be a positive thing,” said Pierce.
The co-director of MSU’s creative writing program has authored three books of poetry. Her “Famous Last Words” (Saturnalia Books, 2008) won the Saturnalia Books Poetry Prize. “The Girls of Peculiar” (Saturnalia, 2012) won the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Poetry Prize. The publisher will release Pierce’s next collection of poems, “The Tornado is the World,” in 2016.
Genesis of a story
Hagenston’s featured short story in the “O. Henry Prize Stories” first appeared in the journal Subtropics. It takes place in Nice, inspired when the author was on sabbatical in the South of France in 2010.
Coming upon the aftermath of a car accident on the Promenade des Anglais — the main boulevard — Hagenston and her husband saw a car with a broken windshield and a pair of women’s shoes in the street.
“I found myself wondering about the woman, and then wondering about the other people who’d witnessed the accident,” said the author. The thought process led her to create two middle-aged siblings and a teenage French pickpocket and see where their paths would cross.
“What I like most about writing a story is not knowing where it’s going to go, and letting the characters surprise me,” Hagenston said.
The “O. Henry Prize Stories 2015,” edited by Laura Furman and published by Anchor Books, gathers 20 of the best short stories of the year, selected from thousands published in literary magazines. Accompanying the stories are the editor’s introduction, essays from jurors and observations from winning writers.
Hagenston’s first book, “A Gram of Mars” (Sarabande Books, 1998), won the Mary McCarthy Prize. Her “Strange Weather” (Press 53, 2010), won the Spokane Prize for Short Fiction. “Scavengers,” her third collection, was chosen as winner of the Permafrost Book Prize and will be released in 2016 by the University of Alaska Press.
The Starkville resident has won two O. Henry awards, special mentions in Pushcart anthologies and Best American Short Stories, among other honors.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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