Florida Book Awards go to poets Kirby and Giampietro of Florida State

David Kirby (left) and Frank Giampietro

The third annual Florida Book Awards were announced March 3 and among the winning authors selected from across the Sunshine State are a pair of poets from The Florida State University. Professor David Kirby has won the gold medal in Poetry for the second consecutive year, and graduate student Frank Giampietro has earned a bronze.

The Florida Book Awards is an annual statewide program established in 2006 that recognizes, honors and celebrates the best Florida literature penned by new and established authors alike and published during the previous year. It is coordinated by The Florida State University Program in American and Florida Studies and co-sponsored by dozens of high-profile humanities organizations. Contest categories — currently there are eight — range from poetry and popular fiction to children’s and Spanish-language literature. Co-sponsors nominate the judges, who serve on three-member juries that select up to five medalists in each category.

An internationally renowned poet and a noted book critic for the New York Times, Kirby is the Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor of English at Florida State, where for decades he has been a celebrated teacher in the Creative Writing Program. This year, he has garnered Florida Book Award gold for "The Temple Gate Called Beautiful" (Alice James Book, 2008), a collection of poems that he describes as a non-believer’s exploration of the afterlife.

"The first poem in the book has Elvis leading me through hell, and the others cross back and forth between this world and the next," Kirby said.

His faculty colleague Jimmy Kimbrell won the first Florida Book Award in Poetry in 2006. "I’m just honored to be following along behind him," Kirby said. "There are so many wonderful poets in this state and in Tallahassee in particular; it’s a joy to be around them."

Making his first Florida Book Awards appearance, Giampietro earned his bronze medal in the poetry category for "Begin Anywhere" (Alice James Book, 2008).

"This book is about the tension between the allure of contemporary American suburbia and the high anxiety of a born second guesser," said Giampietro, 38, a doctoral student who will graduate from Florida State in August with a Ph.D. in English (and a dissertation in creative writing). "It’s a funny, self-deprecating, and frank portrayal of fatherhood, marriage and personal transformation as the speaker’s definition of happiness evolves."

"Oh, Frank’s a marvelous poet," said Kirby. "He has been in my poetry workshop, and I wrote a blurb for his book. I predict great things for Frank."

The 2008-2009 co-sponsors of the Florida Book Awards are the Florida Center for the Book; State Library and Archives of Florida; Florida Historical Society; Florida Humanities Council; Florida Literary Arts Coalition; Florida Library Association; Governor’s Family Literacy Initiative; Florida Association for Media in Education; Florida Center for the Literary Arts; Friends of the Florida State University Libraries; Florida Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America; and "Just Read, Florida!"

For a complete list of this year’s award-winning authors and their books — all published in 2008 — go to www.fsu.edu/~ams/bookawards/Award_Categories_2008.html.

This summer, FORUM, the magazine of the Florida Humanities Council, will devote an entire issue to the Florida Book Awards winners.

Kirby and the seven other gold medal winners will be formally recognized on March 25 at the Historical and Cultural Awards Ceremony, which will be held at the R.A. Gray Building in Tallahassee and is sponsored by the State of Florida’s Division of Cultural Affairs. To learn more about the March 25 event, contact Jennifer Womble, State Library and Archives, at (850) 245-6604. In addition, all awardees will be recognized at the Florida Library Association Conference Banquet on May 7 in Orlando. For general information on the May 7 event, call Faye Roberts, executive director, Florida Library Association, at (386) 438-5795; for banquet registration information, e-mail CMC & Associates at Mwozniak@cmc-associates.com.