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SMSU’s Pichaske nominated for literary award

February 11, 2012
By Cindy Votruba , Marshall Independent

MARSHALL - In his professional life, Southwest Minnesota State University English professor David Pichaske describes his routine as "I teach, write my own stuff, publish other people's stuff and I travel."

This past week, Pichaske left for Poland where he'll teach at the Academy of International Studies, a private university in Lodz, until August.

Earlier this year, a group of southwest Minnesota authors nominated Pichaske for the annual Kay B. Sexton Award, which honors a lifetime contribution to Minnesota's literary community. The award will be announced later this month.

Article Photos

Photo courtesy of Jim Tate, SMSU office of communications and marketing
Southwest Minnesota State University English professor David Pichaske was recently nominated for the Kay B. Sexton Award, which recognizes those who have made a lifetime contribution to Minnesota’s literary community.

Nominees may include publishers, booksellers, teachers and leaders of literary organizations. It is not an award for writing.

Pichaske started publishing books back when he was in Illinois during the late 1970s. When he was teaching, he had thought about leaving the field and just do publishing, Pichaske said.

"But it's hard to do that from Peoria, Illinois or Marshall, Minnesota," he said.

He came to Southwest in 1981 and has authored, co-authored and co-edited 17 books. Pichaske has been a strong promoter of rural and regional literature, teaching about the works of regional authors like Bill Holm and Paul Gruchow. He is the publisher-editor of independent book-publishing houses. He started Spoon River Poetry Press while he was in Illinois. Then there was Plains Press, which published Holm's first book "The Music of Failure" and Ellis Press, which has published several regional authors, such as Leo Dangel, Adrian Louis and William Kloefkorn.

"Finally I lumped all three together," he said.

Pichaske's most recent book he wrote was "Song of the North Country: A Midwest Framework to the Songs of Bob Dylan." He's also collaborated with Joe Amato on books that feature southwest Minnesota.

"I met a lot of writers at Marshall (Writers) Festivals," Pichaske said. Then he'd incorporate their works into his teachings. He was one of the founders of the Marshall Writers Festival.

In one of the books he's written, "Rooted," Pichaske said he wrote about authors he's published. In his rural literature class, he'll talk about area writers.

Fellow SMSU English professor Marianne Zarzana was one of those who nominated Pichaske for the award. In her nomination form, Zarzana said that she's had the privilege to observe Pichaske's passion for fostering books, reading and literary activities in Minnesota.

"His contributions as a professor, an editor-publisher, an author and a promoter of literature have been instrumental in securing a reputation for Southwest Minnesota State University as a place that welcomes and nurtures writers,"?she wrote.

Zarzana said in her nomination that Pichaske is a challenging professor, holding the university's literature and creative writing student to the highest standards.

"High expectations are a sign of respect, and David's students rise to the challenge, often going on to attend graduate school, becoming published authors and pursuing careers as teachers and professors," Zarzana said in her nomination. "But David's support for students does not end when they cross the stage at graduation. He keeps in close touch with them as they pursue their professional literary careers, encouraging them and offering guidance."

During his career, Pichaske has been the recipient of three Fulbright Scholarships. During his Fulbright Fellowship to Poland, he wrote "Poland in Transition: 1989-91," a collection of essays.

As he returns to Poland, Pichaske said he'll be teaching American culture and working on "Poland in Transition Part II." He'll also teach about works from a couple Minnesota authors.

"Poland will be going back to a familiar landscape," Pichaske said.



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