Ryler Dustin of Bellingham, Washington is the 2022 winner of the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize for his collection Trailer Park Psalms. Dustin’s debut collection was selected by poet Jeffrey McDaniel. The University of Pittsburgh Press will publish Trailer Park Psalms as part of the acclaimed Pitt Poetry Series this fall (on-sale date: September 12, 2023).
“I love how these poems play to our senses, how the tactile details—courtesy of taut diction and the author’s attentive ear—come to life in the reader’s mind,” says Jeffrey McDaniel. “And the high level of elegance and wisdom in these pages; Dustin dives into the murkiness of the past and emerges holding something holy and beautiful.”
Trailer Park Psalms traces the speaker’s journey beyond his boyhood trailer park, through an American landscape marked by violence. Along the way, he searches for sources of awe that might inspire us, even in a compromised world: the everyday miracle of eyesight, the courage of the Voyager spacecrafts, and the “clumsy kindness” of family members trying to mend the damages of the past. In the end, what he finds isn’t faith, but the hope that “if there’s a heaven, we will bend / to examine our old selves / and wonder how something so delicate / was ever allowed.”
Dustin reflected, “Winning this prize feels like joining the authors who first made me think of poetry as more than a high school English test, as a tool for survival and a road to love—folks like Larry Levis and Sharon Olds—and poets like Danusha Laméris who’ve sustained me in the years since. Being selected by Jeffrey McDaniel is especially powerful for me; I remember being twenty-one, having never once bought a poetry book, and a friend slipping me a beat-up copy of Alibi School in the back of a bar, like some kind of contraband. I read it, and I started to write.”
Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, Ryler Dustin has represented Seattle on the final stage of the Individual World Poetry Slam. His poems appear in outlets like American Life in Poetry, Verse Daily, Gulf Coast, The Best of Iron Horse and The Best of Button Poetry. He holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of Houston and a PhD in creative writing from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. He currently lives and teaches in Michigan. You can find Ryler online at www.rylerdustin.com and on Instagram @rylerdustin.
Trailer Park Psalms by Ryler Dustin will be published by the University of Pittsburgh Press with an on-sale date of September 12, 2023 · 80 pp · 6 x 9 · ISBN 9780822967125 · Paper $18.00 · eBook available.