Poet Named First-Ever Vermont Book Award Winner

Oct 5, 2015

The first-ever Vermont Book Award winner has been announced. Chosen from six finalists, poet Kerrin McCadden of Plainfield won for her collection Landscape With Plywood Silhouettes.

The award goes to an author who lives in Vermont or whose work reflects Vermont, and McCadden exhibits both. The poet has lived here since age 18, and says from community to nature, many things about the state influence her work.

“I came here as a young woman to go to college, drawn by the place. The idea of living in a rural environment [appealed to me],” says McCadden.

She says she spent almost 20 years on a farm, and now lives in a village, “an actual, real, intact village with no road running through the middle of it.”

“I'm really drawn to Vermont. It appears in the people and the imagery of my work, and I think Vermont has this interesting tension between older cultures and the current culture,” says McCadden.

She says Vermont is “cutting edge” in so many ways, and so the tension between the more modern lifestyle and also a carrying on of older ways is really fruitful for poets.

Learning from teaching

McCadden says she first got into writing her own poetry when she started at a creative writing program at a high school in her twenties.

“I invited students to study poetry with me. And I made them take risks: I made them send their work out, I made them read publicly. And they one day turned the lens on me and said, ‘Hey, what about you?’ And I said, ‘OK. OK.’ And I started sending manuscripts out.”

McCadden says that was when she began to be published and participate in conferences. She says it was “the birth of my career as a poet.”

McCadden cites Ellen Bryant Voigt, who was recently awarded a MacArthur "Genuis Grant," as an amazing poet and mentor. She holds a Masters of Fine Arts from The Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College, which was founded by Voigt.

McCadden says in several of her poems in the latest collection she was reflecting on how books come to life inside the reader, and how books she reads become a part of her life.

“And for me in this poem ["Dear Reader"], I was thinking about the value of poems, what a poem can do that a novel can't do. And a poem can break your heart in the short term, and over and over,” she says. 

McCadden’s poems are many layered, and she says often are based on things she absorbs in her daily life.

“I think poets are often these unfortunate magnets,” she laughs. “Fortunate and unfortunate in that a poet's job is to see the world like a collector. And so for me there are so many times when I experience something when I know it has to go into a poem.”