"Stunned and delighted." That was Morri Creech's reaction late Monday afternoon when his daughter called him while he was teaching to congratulate him on being named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for his poetry collection, "The Sleep of Reason" (Waywise Press, 2013).
Creech is writer-in-residence at Queens University of Charlotte, where he teaches in both the undergraduate creative writing program and in the low-residency MFA program. Susan Ludvigson, prize-winning poet and Winthrop University professor emeritus, got to know Creech when he took her classes and workshops at Winthrop.
"He came to my classes as a freshman," says Ludvigson, "already knowing his calling, and having read most of the important poets in the English language, as well as the French and German poets. If he hadn't taken classes, I'm sure he would have arrived at his success on his own, because he's both brilliant and fiercely dedicated." At the same time, says Ludvigson, he was "quiet and humble in the workshops, offering helpful criticism to other poets, while believing that he still had much to learn."
Charlotte poet Beth Swann met Creech when she enrolled in the Queens MFA program in 2009. "Knowledgeable, affable, accessible and professional at all times, Morri remains to this day my trusted mentor," she says. "He's not only an asset to Queens, Morri is a man who impacts and empowers students and makes valuable contributions to our community."
Swann calls Creech's poetry "breathtaking," blending, she says, "a keen observation of life today with the music of the masters to create timeless beauty."
Creech, 43, was born in Moncks Corner, S.C., and studied at both Winthrop and McNeese State University in Louisiana. He's been awarded a Ruth Lilly Fellowship, and he's received grants in poetry from the NEA and the North Carolina and Louisiana Arts councils. He lives in Charlotte with his wife and two children.
The winner of the 2014 Pulitzer in poetry is Vijay Seshdri for "3 Sections" (Graywolf). The other finalist is Adrian Matejka for "The Big Smoke" (Penguin).