Shira Dentz‘s new book, Sisyphusina (PANK Books, 2020) just won the Eugene Paul Nassar Prize. This is a prize of $2,000 given annually for a poetry collection published in the previous year by a resident of upstate New York, and the winner also gives a reading and teaches a master class at Utica College.
This year’s Eugene Paul Nassar Poetry Prize Reading has been scheduled by Utica College to be held virtually via Zoom on April 15, 2021, at 7PM, and will be open to the public.
Sisyphusina is a cross-genre collection of prose, poetry, visual art, and improvisatory music, centered on female aging. Faced with linguistic and literary traditions that lack rich vocabularies to describe female aging, Shira Dentz uses the hybrid form as an attempt to suture new language that reflects internal and physical processes that constitute a shifting identity. By deviating from formal classical construction, and using the recurring image of a rose, Sisyphusina circles around conventions of beauty, questioning traditional aesthetic values of continuity, coherence, and symmetry. Some of the book’s images are drawn from separate multimedia collaborations between the author and composer Pauline Oliveros, artist Kathy High, and artist Kathline Carr. A musical composition improvised by Pauline Oliveros, based on one of her text scores, titled “Aging Music,” is the book’s coda, and readers can listen to it online by scanning a QR code inside the book. The interweaving of these collaborations with the author’s voice and voices from other sources imbue this book with a porous texture, and reimagines the boundary of the book as a membrane.
“A book that moves in ways that most books don’t (or won’t) attempt… At its center, Sisyphusina is concerned with change—in particular, the changes undergone by a woman. This speaker endures shifting family dynamics, and the changes to her own body as she ages. She also faces criticism for not changing in ways expected of her, for not aligning herself with what Welter would call the ‘Cult of True Womanhood’.”
– Tupelo Quarterly
The book was also recently featured at Poetry Society of America.
“Geometry is often known as a science of understanding, the discipline between shapes and sizes and the application of that information to everyday life. It makes sense to me that in a book so rife with understanding the self that the author chooses pictures, lineatures, shapes, and environments to decodify what had been blurred in turmoil.”
– Colorado Review
Shira Dentz is the author of five books, including black seeds on a white dish (Shearsman), door of thin skins (CavanKerry Press), a cross-genre memoir, how do i net thee (Salmon Poetry), a National Poetry Series finalist, and the sun a blazing zero (Lavender Ink/Diálogos). She’s also the author of two chapbooks, Leaf Weather (Shearsman) and FLOUNDERS (Essay Press). Her poetry, visual writing, and prose appear in many venues including Poetry, The American Poetry Review, The Iowa Review, New American Writing, Brooklyn Rail, Lana Turner, Denver Quarterly, The Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day Series (Poets.org), and National Public Radio, and interviews with her appear in journals such as Ploughshares, Rain Taxi, and The Rumpus. Shira is a recipient of awards incuding an Academy of American Poets’ Prize. Poetry Society of America’s Lyric Poem and Cecil Hemley Memorial Awards, Painted Bride Quarterly’s Poetry Prize, and Electronic Poetry Review’s Discovery Award. Before returning to school to pursue graduate studies, she worked as a graphic artist in the music industry in NYC. A graduate of Iowa Writers‘ Workshop, she holds a Ph.D. in Creative Writing and Literature from the University of Utah, and is currently Tarpaulin Sky’s Special Features Editor and lives and teaches in upstate New York.