Perugia Press announced last week that Jennifer K. Sweeney of Kalamazoo, Michigan, won the Perugia Press Prize for her second poetry collection, How to Live on Bread and Music. She received $1,000, and her book will be published in a print-run of one thousand copies in September. The award is given for a first or second collection by a woman poet.
Sweeney’s manuscript was 1 of 478 manuscripts submitted last November to the prize, which charged a $22 entry fee. The judging process involved several stages: Entries were first stripped of all identifying materials and then sent to a dozen screeners who winnowed the pool down to sixteen. Those semi-finalists were sent to eight judges, who gathered for a full day of reading and discussion, at the end of which two finalists were chosen. According to Kan, Sweeney’s manuscript stood out for the author’s "confidence with language, her willingness to let her intelligence become apparent slowly."
The two finalists were sent to three final judges, but while the manuscripts were being read, one of them was withdrawn because it was taken by another press.
"This has never happened at Perugia Press before," says Kan. "It took the wind out of our sails for a day, but ultimately, knowing that both books will be published is a win-win situation and confirms that our selection process is sound."
Perugia plans to promote the book through its mailing list and by sending out galleys to review publications. “We strongly encourage our poets to plan as many readings as possible,” says Kan. “That's the best way to share the work and sell books.” Sweeney’s book will be available on Perugia’s Web site, through Amazon.com, and in independent bookstores across the country.