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2002 Oklahoma Book Award Winners

OBA Winners for 2002

Back Row: Carl Brune, design/Illustration ; and Shelby Tisdale, who accepted for editor Lydia Wyckoff, non-fiction winner for Woven Worlds. Tisdale is currator at Philbrook and publisher of Woven Worlds.

Front row: Molly Levite Griffis, winner of the children/young adult award; Ivy Dempsey, winner in the poetry category; and Douglas Kelley, fiction winner.

More than 200 people attended the book award ceremony March 9th at the Petroleum Club in Oklahoma City. Twenty-two finalists attended and signed books before and after the ceremony.

Former Arrell Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient Michael Wallis was the Master of Ceremonies. John Cole, Director of the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, brought greetings from Washington. Susan McVey, Director of the Oklahoma Department of Libraries also welcomed the guests.

The awards program is sponsored by the Oklahoma Center For the Book in the Department of Libraries. Books published during 2001 and written by Oklahomans or about Oklahoma were eligible to enter the 2002 competition.

The Distinguished Service Award was presented to Dan Blanchard in recognition of his outstanding service to the Oklahoma Center for the Book and Oklahoma’s literary community.

Children and Young Adult

cover of Rachel ResistanceThe children/young adult medal was received by Molly Levite Griffis, Norman, for The Rachel Resistance. Griffis is a former publisher, book-store owner, English teacher and a master storyteller. Griffis begins her book on a day that will live in infamy—Pearl Harbor Day. The heroine, Rachel, listens to Captain Midnight on the radio, becomes a member of his secret squadron, and becomes convinced there are spies in her hometown of Apache, Oklahoma.


Ivy Dempsey, Tulsa, received the 2002 award for poetry for The Scent of Water: New and Selected Poems. The Scent of Water maps a pilgrimage from a child’s puzzled awakening, through the shock of adult despairs, toward the humbling wisdom of acceptance. It provides a wide range of landscapes—the trees, skies, and waters of Oklahoma, Kansas, California, and New Mexico.


cover of The Captain's WifeFiction recipient was Douglas Kelley for The Captain’s Wife. This epic historical novel tells the story of Mary Patten, one of the only women in American history to take command of a full-rigged merchant sailing ship. In 1856, nineteen year old Patten sets sail from New York with her husband and a crew of thirty men to sail around Cape Horn to San Francisco. When her husband falls ill, she heroically takes charge of the ship. This is the first novel for Kelley who is a corporate pilot. He makes his home in the small town of Pocola, Oklahoma.

Design and Illustration

cover of Woven WorldsWoven Worlds: Basketry from the Clark Field Collection, designed by Carl Brune, won the prize for Design and Illustration. The Clark Field collection reflects the diversity and resiliency of Native American peoples and their basketry traditions as they have responded to change over time. Brune weaves historical photos, maps, graphics, and photos of collection pieces to help tell this story. Brune is graphics and publication manager at the Philbrook.


Editor Lydia L. Wyckoff won the second award for Woven Worlds: Basketry from the Clark Field Collection. The Clark Field Collection at the Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa is recognized as one of the most comprehensive basketry collections in North America. Baskets reflect the social, cultural, and environmental experience of Native American peoples. Through the collection, the weavers, their baskets, and their traditions are highlighted. Wyckoff holds a Ph.D. in anthropology from Yale University and served as curator of Native American art at Philbrook from 1991 to 1998.

Arrell Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award

In addition to the five categories listed, the board of directors of the Oklahoma Center for the Book selects one person each year to be honored for a body of work. This award, the Arrell Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award, was named for the Norman, Oklahoma, historian who served as the first president of the Oklahoma Center for the Book.
staff of World Literature Today
World Literature Today, the literary quarterly published at the University of Oklahoma, was honored with the Arrell Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award. Managing Editor David Clark, Editor William Riggan, and Executive Director Robert Con Davis-Undiano accepted the award. WLT Board of Visitors chairman Jim Tolbert presented the award.

For the first time, the Oklahoma Center for the Book presented the annual Arrell Gibson Award not to an individual, but to an institution—World Literature Today, the world’s oldest international literary quarterly in English. This year marks the 75th anniversary of this Oklahoma-born, world-renowned journal and its affiliated programs.

Scholar Roy Temple House founded the journal under the name Books Abroad in 1927. Dr. House directed the department of modern languages at The University of Oklahoma. A proponent of internationalism, he believed a non-ideological commentary on foreign literature could help counter America’s trend toward isolationism, and promote international understanding.

From a modest seedling of thirty-two pages (January 1927), Books Abroad grew to 256 pages by the end of its 50th year (the Autumn 1976 issue). In January 1977, under the direction of Ivar Ivask, the journal became World Literature Today, reflecting the truly international range that its coverage and reputation had acquired.

Dr. Ivask, the journal’s fifth director, was also responsible for initiating the journal’s international award for literature in 1969. Today, the Neustadt International Prize for Literature, supported by an endowment from the Neustadt family of Ardmore and Dallas, remains one of the few international prizes for which poets, novelists, and playwrights are equally eligible.

Another journal-sponsored event, the Puterbaugh Conferences on World Literature, brings a prominent author to The University of Oklahoma each spring for free lectures. In conjunction with the lectures, World Literature Today sponsors a symposium featuring world-renowned scholars and specialists in the author’s work. The conference series began in 1968 and was endowed in perpetuity in 1978 by the Puterbaugh Foundation of McAlester.

After 75 years, WLT continues to promote international understanding through the celebration of literature. A new award honoring children’s literature will debut in 2003. In addition, the journal has begun a new venture: WLT Magazine, designed for both the general public and the scholar. In his introduction to the inaugural issue, current director Robert Con Davis-Undiano writes, “In creating a magazine that may reach a wider public, we are attempting to enlarge that circle of understanding, as has always been the goal at both Books Abroad and WLT.

Ralph Ellison Award

From time to time the Ralph Ellison Award, posthumously honoring an Oklahoma writer, is also presented. The award is named for Ellison, the first recipient, who was honored in 1995. A plaque is displayed at the Ralph Ellison Library in Oklahoma City bearing the names of each recipient.

The 2002 recipient of the Ralph Ellison Award was John Berryman, poet, biographer, and editor. Born October 25, 1914, Berryman spent the first ten years of his life near McAlester, Oklahoma.

Kate Donahue and Sara Lissick - widow and daughter of John Berryman
The Center honored the late poet John Berryman with the Ralph Ellison Award. Berryman's widow, Kate Donahue, and daughter Sara Lissick were at the event to accept the award.

He earned an A.B. degree from Columbia University and a B.A. in 1938 from Clare College, Cambridge. Considered by many to be a brilliant teacher, Berryman taught literature at Wayne State, Harvard, Princeton, the University of Washington, and the University of Cincinnati. In 1955, he was appointed Regents Professor of Humanities at the University of Minnesota, where he spent the last years of his life.

With the publishing (in book form) of Homage to Mistress Bradstreet in 1956, John Berryman gained wide recognition and praise for originality as he began working within the voices of diverse personae. In Bradstreet, which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, he imagines and inhabits the dramatic voice of Early American poet Anne Bradstreet.

77 Dream Songs, for which he won the 1965 Pulitzer Prize, is widely considered a masterpiece—an essential work that continues to set him apart from any other poet. A series of sonnet-like poems, this book is a harrowing and intimate exploration of the depths of a human soul using a number of memorable and sometimes comic alter egos (including “Henry” and “Mr. Bones”). Berryman continued to add to this sequence of poems, and the complete Dream Songs eventually numbered nearly 400.

His Toy, His Dream, His Rest (a companion piece to 77 Dream Songs) won the National Book Award (1969) and the Bollingen Prize. Other important works include Berryman’s Sonnets, Love and Fame, and his novel Recovery.

Berryman received two Guggenheim Fellowships (1952 and 1966) during his career. He was elected a Fellow of the Academy of American Poets in 1966 and served as a Chancellor from 1968 until his death.

Berryman, who never recovered from the childhood shock of his father’s suicide, was prone to emotional instability and heavy drinking throughout his life. Tragically, he ended his own life on January 7, 1972.


To see complete list of 2002 Oklahoma Book Award Finalists go here.


The Oklahoma Center for the Book, sponsor of the Oklahoma Book Award competition, is located in the Oklahoma Department of Libraries. Established in 1986 as an outreach program of the Library of Congress, the Oklahoma Center was the fourth such state center formed. Additional sponsorship of the awards program is through the Friends of the Oklahoma Center for the Book, a nonprofit 501-c-3 organization.

The mission of the Oklahoma Center for the Book is
to promote the work of Oklahoma authors,
to promote the literary heritage of the state, and
to encourage reading for pleasure by Oklahomans of all ages.

For further information about the Oklahoma Center for the Book or the Oklahoma Book Award program, contact Connie Armstrong, 200 NE 18th Street, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, 73105; call 405-522-3383.


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