Augustana University Distinguished Professor Poet Laureate Finalist for S.D.

Dr. Patrick Hicks, Writer-in-Residence and distinguished professor at Augustana University has been nominated to become South Dakota’s next poet laureate. Dr. Hicks, who teaches courses on creative writing as well as Irish literature, is one of three finalists to represent the state. Interviews took place in January.

Dr. Hicks teaches such honors courses as “Great Britain and the Great War” and “Eleutheria: Freedom and Literature.” He is the author of over ten books, including The Collector of Names, Adoptable, and This London — he also wrote the critically and popularly acclaimed novel, The Commandant of Lubizec: A Novel of the Holocaust and Operation Reinhard. He has been nominated seven times for the Pushcart Prize, he was recently a finalist for the High Plains Book Award, the Dzanc Short Story Competition, and the Steinberg Essay Prize. His poetry has appeared on NPR, The PBSNewsHour, and American Life in Poetry. A winner of the Glimmer Train Fiction Award, he is also the recipient of a number of grants and fellowships, including awards from the Bush Artist Foundation, the South Dakota Arts Council, the Loft Literary Center, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. He was recently a finalist for an Emmy (Writer — Short Form). His next collection of poetry, Library of the Mind, will be published by Ireland's prestigious press, Salmon Poetry, later this year. A new project for Dr. Hicks is being the host and curator of Poetry from Studio 47, which airs weekly on SDPB.

“It's a tremendous honor to be one of the three finalists for the office of poet laureate,” he shares. “Whoever is the successful candidate will become an ambassador of poetry for our state, and that means getting the gift of travel, meeting people and helping others see the wonder of words. We use language every day, but I think we take it for granted. Whoever becomes the poet laureate has the opportunity to instill a sense of awe for words. We get to help others tell their stories. That's what a poem is — it’s a tiny story. And who doesn’t like stories?”

Many of the states in the United States have established the post of poet laureate and South Dakota has had a representative since 1937. They are appointed by the Governor and serve a four-year term. The responsibilities of the state poets laureate are to make public appearances at poetry readings or literary events and to promote awareness of poetry within their geographical region. However, “each candidate has their own idea of what they'd like to do during their term,” Dr. Hicks says. “As for me, I'd like to use my radio program, Poetry from Studio 47, to help bring poetry to the airwaves of South Dakota, and I'd also like to run workshops for high school students as well as veterans who might be struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.”

The position is currently held by Lee Ann Roripaugh, who was appointed in 2015. She is the author of four books of poetry. The term of office begins July 1, 2019 and will serve until June 30, 2023. The new South Dakota Poet Laureate will be celebrated at the 2019 Festival of Books in Deadwood. Candidates for the position must be residents of South Dakota and must have written and published poetry of recognized merit.

The other two finalists are Christine Stewart from South Dakota State University in Brookings, S.D. and Jim Reese from Mount Marty College in Yankton, S.D.