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Students win poetry prizes

Poets celebrate the first New Mexico State University Somoza-Wilson Poetry Prizes. From left are Paige Deshong, Keith Wilson, Katie Duhamel, Joe Somoza and Gilberto Lucero. (Photo by Kevyn Palmer)

Three poets in the New Mexico State University graduate English program are the first winners of Somoza-Wilson Poetry Prizes.

Paige Deshong, Katie Duhamel and Gilberto Lucero, candidates for the master's degree in creative writing, received a total of $1,000. The prizes, to be awarded annually, were established recently by NMSU assistant basketball coach Rus Bradburd to honor Las Cruces poet Joe Somoza.

"In coaching I've found that there are great coaches who somehow go unrecognized," Bradburd said. "I think Joe Somoza is a world-class poet who is less well known than he deserves to be. The prize is to honor him."

Somoza, who retired recently from the NMSU English department, wanted to include poet Keith Wilson, an NMSU professor emeritus, in naming the award.

"Having other interests, like poetry or music, keeps basketball fresh for me," said Bradburd, who coached at the University of Texas at El Paso before coming to NMSU. Bradburd said he is an avid reader and was deeply influenced by beat novelist Jack Kerouac. "But I really began reading poetry under the influence of El Paso poet Bobbie Byrd," he said. "Bobbie would ask me a question about our new point guard, and I would ask him which was the best book by Robert Creeley."

The graduate students said they were pleased to be selected for the awards. "We're very grateful for the help and recognition," Deshong said. "The writing program here at NMSU has changed my life."