UMass alumna Karen Skolfield, a lecturer in the College of Engineering Junior Writing Program and a writer-in-residence in the college’s Career Development and Experiential Learning Center, won first-place in the poetry category of the 2020 Massachusetts Book Awards for her work Battle Dress. According to a Daily Hampshire Gazette article, “Battle Dress looks back on her experience serving in the U.S. Army as well as the culture of the military and its place in U.S. society, including the fact that only a tiny percentage of Americans serve in it.”
Skolfield is currently functioning as Northampton’s ninth Poet Laureate for the 2019–2021 term. In addition to being a longtime staff member in the College of Engineering, Skolfield earned her Master of Fine Arts degree from UMass Amherst.
Battle Dress was published by W.W. Norton. Skolfield also authored a previous award-winning book of poetry, Frost in the Low Areas.
As a 2019 edition of Poets & Writers explained, “In Battle Dress, Skolfield, a U.S. Army veteran, offers a fierce yet intimate glimpse of a soldier’s training, mental conditioning, and combat preparation as well as a searing examination of the long-term repercussions of war and how they become embedded in our language and psyche.”
Rosanna Warren, who chose Battle Dress as winner of the 2018 Barnard Women Poets Prize, called the book “a terrific and sometimes terrifying collection—morally complex, rhythmic, tough-minded, and original.”
Skolfield is also the winner of the 2014 PEN New England Award for Literary Excellence for Frost in the Low Areas. In addition, she was selected for the 2016 Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize in Poetry from the Missouri Review.
The 2020 Massachusetts Book Awards were selected by the Massachusetts Center for the Book, a public-private partnership located in Concord, Massachusetts, that each year issues awards in five categories: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, middle grade/young adult literature, and picture books/early readers. (September 2020)