West Virginia University alumna Ida Stewart’s first book, “Gloss,” has won the Perugia Press Prize for a first or second book by a woman, and Perugia Press will publish it in the early fall 2011. “Gloss” is a full-length collection of poems.
Stewart graduated from WVU’s Eberly College of Arts and Sciences with bachelor’s degrees in English and political science. Stewart was selected to the Order of Augusta and was also recognized by the WVU Honors College as a Dennis O’Brien Outstanding Senior in 2004.
“Many of the poems engage with the landscape of the Appalachian mountain region, and particularly with the practice of mountaintop removal coal mining,” Stewart said about her book.
She said the poems aren’t really about the landscape or coal mining, but they engage with it – or “mine” it.
“I use the mountainous landscape metaphorically and imagistically to explore and understand the ups and downs, twists and turns, and fluctuations not only of landscape, but also in the relationship between humans and nature, between lover and beloved, and among all the meanings and double-meanings folded into communication – in individual words and turns of phrase,” Stewart added.
As a West Virginia native, she is heartbroken by the irreversible destruction that mountaintop removal coal mining has on her home.
“Not only are the Appalachians among the oldest, most bio-diverse mountains in the world, but they are us,” she said. “I’m fascinated by the relationship between place and identity, and how ‘home’ is a place absorbed by self. When we destroy our home, we are hurting ourselves – erasing ourselves.”
Stewart said mountaintop removal is another metaphor running through the book, especially related to relationship between violence and communication. She also said there is a lot of word-play in the book.
“I’m curious about the potential energy layered inside language, like coal within the mountains, and the way that energy—those complex, double and often paradoxical meanings—can be released through the power of poetry,” she added.
Stewart is currently pursuing a doctorate in creative writing at The University of Georgia in Athens, Ga. She works as an assistant at “The Georgia Review” literary journal and teaches undergraduate writing courses. Before coming to UGA, Stewart earned a master’s in fine arts in creative writing at The Ohio State University, in 2008.
CONTACT: Rebecca Herod, Eberly College of Arts and Sciences
304-293-7405, ext. 5251, Rebecca.Herod@mail.wvu.edu