Visiting Lecturer Wins Philip Levine Prize for Poetry Collection

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Jurjević pictured in front one of her original paintings.

It was a dreary Sunday when English visiting lecturer Andrea Jurjević received the call that she had been selected as the winner of the Philip Levine Prize for Poetry. Out of more than 900 submissions, her first book, “Small Crimes” was the winner.

“The weather was particularly crappy and I was about to take a nap when they called,” she said. “I was in disbelief because this is my first collection. It definitely boosted my confidence.”

The Philip Levine Prize for Poetry is sponsored by Fresno State’s Creative Writing Master of Fine Arts Program. The prize includes a $2,000 monetary gift as well as publication and distribution by Anhinga Press.

Jurjević wrote “Small Crimes” while pursuing her M.F.A. degree in creative writing and poetry at Georgia State University. The collection, which is centered on the Yugoslav wars in the 90s, includes themes of conflict, war and relationships.

The poems are a result of an internal urge, said Jurjević, who is originally from Croatia.

“So much of the process of writing poetry isn’t intentional but hinges on discovery. You’re guided by nothing more than a hunch, and I kept following that urge like a road back home,” she said. “In one of her poems Emily Dickinson says ‘narcotics cannot still the tooth that nibbles at the soul,’ and often times some kinds of nibbling cannot be resolved. It’s what poetry is—the desire itself. I had to do it.”

Jurjević’s poems have been featured in journals such as The Missouri Review, Subtropics and the Southern Humanities Review.

Once she completes her time at Georgia State as a visiting lecturer, Jurjević hopes to continue to teach and inspire readers through her work.

“I feel that art makes us better humans,” Jurjević said. “It increases our sense of compassion and dissolves boundaries when it comes to age, race, nationality or gender. I think we’re better humans by consuming and enjoying arts in general.”