URI graduate student awarded prestigious Autumn House Press Poetry Prize for debut collection

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Charles Kell
Charles Kell. Photo by Sandy Kell

KINGSTON, R.I. — Nov. 14, 2018 — Charles Kell, a graduate student in English and part-time faculty member in writing and rhetoric in the Harrington School of Communication and Media, has been awarded the distinguished Autumn House Press Poetry Prize for his debut book, “Cage of Lit Glass.”

“I feel lucky and thankful for having won the Autumn House Press Poetry Prize,” said Kell. “I am grateful beyond belief to Kimiko Hahn for choosing my manuscript.”

Autumn House Press is an independent press based in Pittsburgh that publishes full-length collections of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction, including the works of celebrated poets. “Cage of Lit Glass” was selected by judge Kimiko Hahn, an award-winning poet who has published nine collections and is president of the Poetry Society of America.

“Charles Kell’s poems bring out the authentic in all of us. In ‘Cage of Lit Glass,’ he presents an unreal world, and yet these confines are not imaginary,” said Hahn. “The cages are also not stable: we learn [in his poem] that ‘[t]here is a phenomenon amongst / former prisoners where after release / they begin to reconstruct the very / dimensions of the cell they once / were housed in.’ By creating such poems, the reader is separated from their comfort zone, and this is a marvelous feat. After all, awareness is powerful poetic.”

“Cage of Lit Glass,” is a book of ghosts and a broken reliquary, with moments of laughter and horror, Kell said. It focuses on disparate voices in various states of unease and trouble. Kell said the manuscript went through multiple revisions and iterations over the course of three years. It will be published in August 2019.

Hailing from Garrettsville, Ohio, Kell has long been fascinated with poetry. While pursuing his master’s degree at the University of Toledo, Kell focused on contemporary poetry and fiction.

“I’ve always been taken with words, their sound and shape, and also with reading and writing,” he said. “I’ve read all my life. It’s the most important thing to me. I’ve read poetry from an early age, but reading Rimbaud and William Blake, while working third shift in a factory, that sticks out to me.”

Kell says he has also been inspired by such writers as Hart Crane, a Garrettsville native, as well as contemporary poets Mark Levine, Jorie Graham, and Danielle Pafunda, particularly for their use of image and language.  

He’s also found that same inspiration while teaching at URI, and credits the English Department with inspiring the creativity and passion students have for writing and poetry.

“There are so many superb and passionate professors in the English Department,” he said. “Working with different professors, my fellow peers, and my students inspire me on many different levels — first and foremost, the opportunity to experiment, practice, and grow as a writer, scholar, and teacher. There are a lot of amazing things happening and quite a few opportunities here for people interested in the arts.”

Alexa Stewart, intern in the Marketing and Communications Department at URI and public relations and communication studies major, wrote this press release.