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Linfield alumnus wins poetry prize for ‘January Machine’

Rob Schlegel '01Linfield College alumnus Rob Schlegel was recently awarded the 2014 Grub Street Poetry Prize for his new book “January Machine.”

The award, selected by famed poetry critic and Harvard professor Stephen Burt, includes a $5,000 award from Grub Street and an upcoming reading and lecture in Boston for Schlegel. “January Machine,” which was published by Four Way Books in March, is a book-length poem comprised of sonnets and sonnet sequences. Rooted in the modern American moment, Schlegel describes “January Machine” as beginning at the intersection of Walt Whitman’s democratic pluralism and George Oppen’s “shipwreck of the singular.”

“I am hoping that the poetry in this book somehow interrogates the politics of language and representation in the larger contexts of belief systems and power structures,” said Schlegel.

Schlegel, a 2001 Linfield graduate, is a visiting professor of English at Whitman College. He credits his time at Linfield — and professors such as Lex Runciman, Barbara Drake, Katherine Kernberger and others — for his development as a writer. He said his growth was also shaped by meaningful relationships with classmates, among them Shane McCrae, Stephen Crumrine and Anne Zimmerman, all of whom went on to become successful writers as well.

“Small class sizes are incredibly important to nurture creative and intellectual development,” said Schlegel. “Opportunities to meet with faculty one on one are equally valuable.”

In addition to teaching at Whitman, Schlegel is co-editor of The Catenary Press, a publication dedicated to featuring long poems. His book “The Lesser Fields” won the Colorado Prize for Poetry and his chapbook “Bloom” won the 2010 Laurel Review/GreenTower Press Chapbook Prize. Schlegel’s work has appeared in the Boston Review, Iowa Review, New American Writing, Poetry and The Volta.

In addition to his Linfield degree, Schlegel earned an MFA in poetry from the University of Montana.