UNE archivist Jefferson Navicky takes home 2022 Maine Literary Award for book of poems
Jefferson Navicky, M.F.A., the archivist for the Maine Women Writers Collection on the University of New England’s Portland Campus, has been awarded a 2022 Maine Literary Award for his book of poems, “Antique Densities: Modern Parables & Other Experiments in Short Prose.”
The Maine Literary Awards, an annual competition hosted by the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance (MWPA), was hosted in May with about 200 people attending both virtually and in person at Portland’s SPACE Gallery. This year’s awards saw more than 400 submissions across an array of categories including poetry, fiction, nonfiction, drama, and more.
Attending virtually with his wife and pets, Navicky took home the Book Prize in Poetry, co-winning the category with W.J. Herbert for her book, “Dear Specimen.”
“I definitely did not think I would win, and just being named a finalist was a huge honor,” Navicky remarked. “My book was published by Deerbrook Editions, a small, Maine-based publisher who makes very beautiful books, so it was a wonderful moment for Maine's small but vibrant poetry world.”
This year’s win follows Navicky’s 2020 win in the Short Works Competition for his collection of poems, “Our Fathers and Other Poems.”
Navicky said “Antique Densities” was inspired by a trip he took to New York City in his early twenties. Ducking into a dimly lit used bookstore off West Broadway, the writer said he came across an anthology titled “Tales of Wisdom: One Hundred Modern Parables,” edited by Howard Schwartz.
“That book changed my life,” Navicky explained. “It was full of these ‘modern parables,’ but they weren't like traditional parables with simple moral lessons; these were strange, amoral, confounding, elliptical prose poems that served to open a door in my head to the possibilities of how strange and wonderful writing can be.”
He said the pieces in his own book are an attempt to enter into a dialogue with the pieces in “Tales of Wisdom.”
As a prize, Navicky was awarded a gift certificate to a bookstore of his choice. He selected his favorite bookstore, Gulf of Maine Books, in Brunswick.
“I'm grateful to the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance for organizing and hosting the Maine Literary Awards,” Navicky said, adding that he is grateful to work for the Maine Women Writers Collection at UNE, another one of his inspirations. “I sometimes have to pinch myself to make sure I'm not dreaming, and that indeed it is my profound good fortune to be able to work in the Maine Women Writers Collection, a place I love.”