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Released May 2, 2005

CENTER FOR WRITERS STUDENT WINS NATIONAL POETRY CONTEST

HATTIESBURG A doctoral candidate at The University of Southern Mississippi’s Center for Writers and a recipient of one of the center’s newly inaugurated Excellence Fellowships has won a $1,000 prize for his poetry from a highly regarded national literary journal.

Michael Bassett’s prize-winning poem, “The Blackboard of His Eyelid,” will appear in Fugue’s summer issue along with work by distinguished poets W.S. Merwin, Reginald Shepherd, and Dean Young. Published by the University of Idaho, Fugue is an important literary journal devoted to the best new poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. It is the recipient of the Pushcart Prize and has received citations from Best American Essays, with poetry reprinted on the Web site Verse Daily.

Bassett, a native of South Carolina, earned a bachelor’s degree from Wofford College and a Master of Fine Arts degree from Vermont College. His poetry has appeared in literary journals such as Apostrophe, Coal City Review, The Journal, and Poetry Motel; his chapbook, Karma Puppets, was published in 2003 by Pudding House Press.

Bassett’s poem was selected from a field of 800 submissions by prominent poet Tony Hoagland, who says, “The writer has a rich, original ear for the improvisations of language . . . this poem generates a Dickensian, gothic linguistic pleasure for the reader in its lyrical narrative of a persecuted nerd-child.”

Bassett is a recipient of a Center for Writers Excellence Award, instituted by President Shelby Thames. The $15,000 stipends afford the center -- ranked in the top 10 percent of creative writing programs by U.S. News and World Report -- increased support for doctoral study. Beginning in the fall of 2005, the awards will be presented to the university’s top doctoral candidates who come to Southern Miss from such prestigious schools as Cornell, Harvard, the University of Virginia, Northeastern University, the University of Georgia, Hollins, and Johns Hopkins.

Bassett will continue his studies at the Center for Writers in the fall of 2005.

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July 20, 2005 4:00 PM