The University of Wisconsin Press and the Creative Writing Program at the University of Wisconsin–Madison today announced that Ron Wallace, founding editor of the Wisconsin Poetry Series, has stepped down as editor of the series. Jesse Lee Kercheval has joined Sean Bishop as series coeditor, effective early 2022.
Founder and former director of UW’s Program in Creative Writing, Ron Wallace is Felix Pollak Professor Emeritus of Poetry and Halls-Bascom Professor of English at UW–Madison. In 1985, Professor Wallace proposed the idea of a poetry prize to then UW Press director Allen Fitchen, and the Brittingham Prize was established. Creation of the Felix Pollak and Four Lakes Prizes followed. Sean Bishop began working on the series a number of years ago; in recognition of his efforts and contributions, he was named coeditor in 2019. The series receives nearly 1,000 submissions annually.
Series founder Ron Wallace, who retires from his editorship after thirty-seven years, is the author of several scholarly books and a book of short stories as well as nine full-length books of poetry and eight chapbooks of poetry and fiction. His most recent poetry collections are The Uses of Adversity, Long for This World: New & Selected Poems, For a Limited Time Only, and For Dear Life, and he is the author of a major anthology, Vital Signs: Contemporary Poetry from the University Presses. Hailed for his wit, good humor, and observational powers, Professor Wallace has been the recipient of such awards as the Banta Book Prize, the Posner Book-Length Poetry Award, and the Wisconsin Library Association Outstanding Achievement Award. His numerous accolades include three UW distinguished teaching awards and the George Garrett Award from the Association of Writers and Writing Programs.
Sean Bishop says, “Ron Wallace has been the heart of the Wisconsin Poetry Series for almost forty years, expanding the series from just one slim volume per year to six annual titles. Ron prided himself on reading at least a portion of every book submitted to our annual competition—roughly twenty-five thousand manuscripts in the lifetime of the series—and his personal notes to applicants were legendary for their insight and generosity. Incoming editor Jesse Lee Kercheval and I are excited to carry Ron’s legacy forward for many years to come, and we hope we can live up to his stunning precedent.”
Incoming series coeditor Jesse Lee Kercheval, Zona Gale Emeritus Professor of English at UW–Madison, is the author of six collections of poetry as well as a translator. Her latest poetry collections are America that island off the coast of France (Tupelo Press, 2019), winner of the Dorset Prize; and La crisis es el cuerpo, translated by Ezequiel Zaidenwerg (Editorial Bajo la luna, Argentina, 2021). Her collection I Want to Tell You is forthcoming from the University of Pittsburgh Press. As a translator, she specializes in Uruguayan and South American poetry; her translations include Love Poems by Idea Vilariño (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2020), which was long-listed for the PEN Translation Award. She is also the editor of several anthologies, including América invertida: An Anthology of Emerging Uruguayan Poets (University of New Mexico Press, 2016). She has been awarded fellowships from the National Endowment of the Arts in both fiction and translation.
Along with the editorial changes, the University of Wisconsin Press also announced the establishment of a new prize for a collection of poetry in translation. The winning collection will be published in the series, alongside the winners of the Brittingham, Felix Pollak, and Four Lakes Prizes and three finalist collections. Manuscripts submitted for the translation prize will be judged during the same period as those submitted for the other prizes, and the winner will receive a $1,500 prize in addition to publication in the series.
“Over the years, I’ve watched with great admiration as Ron Wallace built the Wisconsin Poetry Series,” says Jesse Lee Kercheval. “As he steps down, I am honored to become coeditor of the series with Sean Bishop and, as a translator and poet, truly excited for the launch of the new translation prize.”
“It is with mixed emotions that I face this transition in the leadership of the Wisconsin Poetry Series. Joy over having the opportunity to work with Ron for several years, and sadness that those days are coming to an end. I have learned so much from him as an editor, watching the way he celebrates strong work and encourages authors to improve to find their greatest potential,” says UW Press director Dennis Lloyd. “At the same time, I’m very enthusiastic about working with Sean and Jesse Lee in the years to come, especially as we launch the new poetry in translation prize. With this announcement, we’ve managed to complete a long-planned goal of increasing the annual output of the series from three titles to seven.”
The winners of this year’s competition were announced earlier this month. Submissions for the next competition, including the first translation prize, will be accepted between July 15 and September 15, 2022.
About the University of Wisconsin Press
The University of Wisconsin Press is a not-for-profit publisher of books and journals. With nearly 1,500 titles and over 8,000 peer-reviewed articles in print, its mission embodies the Wisconsin Idea by publishing work of distinction that serves the people of Wisconsin and the world.
For more information on the Wisconsin Poetry Prizes, please visit https://uwpress.wisc.edu/series/wi-poetry.html.