Merriam-Frontier Award Reading

Barry Maxwell

University of Montana Creative Writing Program graduate student Barry Maxwell, winner of the 2018 Merriam-Frontier Award, will hold a reading at 5 p.m. Friday, March 2, in the Theta Rho Room of UM’s Mansfield Library. The event is free and open to the public.

This year, the judges awarded an Honorable Mention to UM graduate student Georgia Dennison. She also will give a reading at the March 2 event.

Maxwell, 57, is a native of Austin, Texas, who moved to Missoula to pursue his Master of Fine Arts degree from UM. He is the founder of Street Lit and the Street Lit Authors Club, which provide books and creative writing workshops to homeless communities in Austin and Missoula.

Dennison is a Master of Fine Arts candidate and writing instructor at UM. She founded the Throne Reading Series in Brooklyn, New York, in 2014 and currently hosts the Second Wind Reading Series in Missoula. She also is a poetry editor for Cutbank Literary magazine and is working on a book-length thesis.

Merriam-Frontier judges Ginny Merriam, Lois Welch and Jolene Brink comment on their selection. “Mr. Maxwell has impeccable command of his craft, showing himself to be technically proficient with a talent for bringing his readers into his stories with remarkable immediacy. He deals unusually well with subjects that readers may at first resist -- homelessness, alcoholism and abject poverty, including falling teeth -- but is never maudlin or self-pitying. His topics are not lighthearted subjects, but he's able to invite us into the experience in a way that does not alienate while still conveying a grittiness that most readers have likely never experienced.”

About Dennison they say, “on occasion we feel moved to recognize an emerging writer who merits encouragement. This year, that is poet Georgia Dennison. She has got it. Her work is serious but remains playful. She creates beautiful images infused with originality. The work is natural, organic, not forced.”

The Merriam-Frontier Award was established by H.G. Merriam, UM professor of English and Creative Writing from 1919 to 1954, and includes a $500 prize and funds to publish the winning entry as a chapbook. The contest is open to undergraduate and graduate students each fall semester.

Frontier, later titled Frontier and Midland, was a distinguished quarterly journal founded and edited by H.G. Merriam and published at UM from 1920 to 1939. Contributors included then-emerging talents Wallace Stegner, A.B. Guthrie Jr., William Saroyan, Dorothy Johnson, John Mason Brown, Weldon Kees, Thomas McGrath and many others. A particular strength of the journal was its frequent publication of work by new voices, a tradition the Merriam-Frontier Award honors and continues.