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Kean University Dean Jeffrey Beck Wins National Poetry Award

Dr. Jeffrey Beck Credits: Kean University

UNION, N.J. – Jeffrey Beck, Ph.D., the dean of the Kean University Nathan Weiss Graduate College, has been awarded the 2015 Norton Girault Prize for his poem, How-to-Blind-Cyclops Instructions.  Published in the Fall 2015 issue of the Old Dominion University literary journalBarely South Review, the poem is a meditation on the famous Cyclops episode in Homer's Odyssey, recontextualized in modern terms of domestic abuse.

“I am humbled to win the prize, which is named for Norton Girault, a fine North Carolina poet and instructor at Old Dominion,” said Beck.  “It is especially meaningful that it was judged by a leading American poet, Natalie Diaz, whose work I deeply admire.”

In selecting Beck’s poem for the prize, Diaz noted that in the poem, Beck both juxtaposes and enmeshes myth with reality.

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“This poet is building a personal mythology,” said Diaz.  “The gigantic myth becomes small, Cyclops becomes intimate, becomes our own drunk, vulnerable, father glowing in his boxers with an all too familiar violence.”

Beck has taught British and American poetry for almost 30 years.  In addition to having his poetry published in Miramar, River Styx, Worcester Review, Naugatuck River Review, I-70 Review, Cold Mountain Review and other journals, Beck is also the author and editor of four books of prose.  He is currently working on his first book of poetry, tentatively titled, Travel Kit for Odyssey, as well as a project with Kean University psychology professor Donald R. Marks to enhance mindfulness through poetry.

“Although it’s not especially common to hear people stay, ‘I love poetry,’ I have never known a person who did not love the intriguing, entrancing play with language that is poetry,” Beck said.

Beck joined Kean University in 2013 as dean of the graduate college and professor of English.  He received his master’s degree in English in 1988 and his Ph.D. in English Literature in 1993 from Indiana University after graduating summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Iowa in 1986.

The Norton Girault Prize is awarded by Old Dominion University each year, alternating each cycle between Poetry, Fiction, and Nonfiction. The upcoming contest (2016) will be in Fiction. The Prize is named for Norton Girault, who, at 98 years old, is an important part of the Creative Writing community of Old Dominion University.


Founded in 1855, Kean University has become one of the largest metropolitan institutions of higher education in the region, boasting a richly diverse student, faculty and staff population. Kean continues to play a key role in the training of teachers and is a hub of educational, technological and cultural enrichment serving nearly 15,000 students. The Nathan Weiss Graduate College offers three doctorate degree programs and more than 60 options for graduate study leading to master’s degrees, professional diplomas or certifications. The University’s six undergraduate colleges offer 50 undergraduate degrees over a full range of academic subjects. With campuses in Union and Toms River, N.J., and Wenzhou, China, Kean University provides a world-class education. Visit Kean online at


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