By Beth Casteel
“A Bestiary,” a poetry book written by award winning author Lily Hoang, is a memoir that uses fairytale-like stories to discuss the complex relationships between people from changing perspectives. She wrote this nonfiction piece while using vivid imagery to describe these complex relationships while giving readers a sense of self-awareness. Published by the Cleveland State Poetry Center in late 2016, this book is now a finalist in the creative nonfiction category for a PEN Literary Award.
Hoang’s style of writing is very unique as she is known for combining various types of literary styles to give readers a glimpse into her life. According to her website, pieces including “Unfinished,” “The Evolution Revolution,” “Changing” and “Parabola” allows for readers to truly appreciate her passion for writing. Her book, “Changing,” was also the recipient of the PEN Beyond Margins award (now known as the Open Book award) and is Hoang’s only other book that has been nominated for a PEN Award.
Every year, the PEN Literary Awards honors the most exceptional authors and their writing. This includes those from diverse types of literature that spread across a variety of genres. According to PEN’s website, the program celebrates the work of those that have been leaders in their respective genres as well as up-and-coming authors. By putting the spotlight on these new authors, they are able to gain more recognition and further their career and passion for writing.
This year, the award will be at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Los Angeles California on Friday, October 27. According to PEN’S website, the winning authors will not only be given major media exposure, they will also receive a $1,000 cash prize. While the publication does not receive a monetary award, the possibility of public exposure is a great feat. This type of publicity can be especially important to smaller publications, like CSU’s very own Poetry Center.
According to the Poetry Center’s website, they are a non-profit independent press that is under the university’s English department. While they may be a smaller press, this has not stopped them from successfully publishing nearly 200 various collections of poetry by up-and-coming authors, some of which getting national attention.
While “A Bestiary” may be the most well-known book to be published by the poetry center, it certainly is not the only one nationally recognized. According to Brandon North, a graduate student affiliated with the program, there have been other award winning books published by the center, two of which have also been nominated for a PEN Award.
If not for the dedicated individuals at the poetry center, many of these books would not be published today. According to North, in the past three years, only three or four graduate students have assisted director Caryl Pagel in this project.Though small in number, Pagel and her team have been able to publish award winning books while gaining national recognition. Their hard work has allowed for a creative space to make the dream of being a published writer come true.
Pagel’s dedication to publishing emerging authors does not end on campus. According to North, in addition to her duties as a professor, she runs an independent publishing press that she founded in 2009.