KU News Release
March 31, 2010
Contact: Mike Krings, University Relations, (785) 864-8860
KU professor Kenneth Irby wins prestigious poetry award
LAWRENCE — Tax season can be the time when one can use good news the most. That’s when Kenneth Irby got a call informing him of some unexpected good fortune.
Irby, associate professor of English at the University of Kansas, was filing his tax returns recently when he got the call informing him he’d been selected as a co-recipient of the 2010 Shelley Memorial Award, given by the Poetry Society of America.
“When (the Poetry Society of America) called me, I had no idea this was in the process at all,” Irby said.
The award, founded in 1929 by the will of the late Mary P. Sears, is given by nomination only. Irby joins an elite group of poets who have won the award, including Marianne Moore, e.e. cummings, Robinson Jeffers, Robert Pinsky and Kimiko Hahn.
“I’m mindful of the honor to be in such company, that’s for sure,” Irby said. “It’s a great honor.”
Irby will share this year’s award with fellow poet Eileen Myles. Winners are selected by a jury of three poets: one appointed by the president of Radcliffe College, one by the president of the University of California-Berkeley and one by the Poetry Society of America Board of Governors. The award is given to a living American poet, selected with reference to his or her genius and need.
The Shelley Awards will be presented April 1 at the Poetry Society of America’s centennial awards ceremony in New York City. Irby will not be able to attend because of a previously scheduled poetry reading, but his brother will attend to accept the honor on his behalf and read his poem “Record.”
Irby recently published “The Intent On: Collected Poems 1962-2006.” Kyle Waugh, a former student, and Cyrus Console, a current student of Irby’s, edited the book.
“All of the physical details of the book, they dealt with,” Irby said of his students-turned-editors. “Without them, it couldn’t have been done. Those two guys really did an immense amount of work in the middle of their own demands.”
Irby, who grew up in Fort Scott and earned his bachelor’s at KU, has taught at KU since 1985. He earned master’s degrees at Harvard University and the University of California-Berkeley. He has published more than 20 books and collections of poems and won several teaching awards, including a Fulbright Fellowship and the Gertrude Stein Award in Innovative American Poetry.
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