World's largest student literary prize of $90,000 awarded to University of Texas at Austin grad student

AUSTIN, Texas—Brian Hart, a graduate student in the James A. Michener Center for Writers at The University of Texas at Austin, has won the initial $90,000 Keene Prize for Literature, the world’s largest student literary prize.

This is the first year the award has been given by the university and its College of Liberal Arts.

He was chosen out of 124 applicants for his fictional narrative titled “The Dog With the Broken Teeth, The One That Fetches Rocks.”

Set in the hard-scrabble world of rural Idaho, Hart’s piece speaks on themes of youth, work, travel and injury and was inspired by his years of working odd jobs and traveling throughout the United States.

“The wonderful dialogue and closely observed world of Brian’s work won us over,” said Richard Lariviere, dean of the College of Liberal Arts. “The quality of the applicant pool was astonishingly high. It was hard to choose, but the consensus of the selection committee was strong.”

The Keene Prize is named after Mr. E.L. Keene, a 1942 graduate of the university, who envisioned an award that would “enhance and enrich the prestige and reputation in the world market of American writers both now and in the future.”

The award is open to all University of Texas at Austin undergraduate and graduate students, and will be given annually to the student who writes “the most vivid and vital portrayal of the American experience in microcosm.” Students could submit poetry, plays and fiction or non-fiction prose.

The selection committee was composed of Lariverie; James Garrison, chair of the Department of English; Richard Isackes, chair of the Department of Theater and Dance; Joanna Hitchcock, director of the University of Texas Press; and James Magnuson, resident author and director of the Michener Center.

In addition to Hart, the other finalists were:

  • Michael McGriff, M.F.A. candidate with the Michener Center, for his poem “Where Light Falls, the Last Detail Becomes the World”;
  • Jake Silverstein, third-year Michener fellow for his novel excerpt “Golden State”;
  • Seth Harp, economics senior, for his essay titled “Leaving Iraq”; and
  • George Brant, first-year Michener fellow, for his play “N O K.”

For more information contact: Kathleen Aronson, 512-475-9763.