By Joe Garvey

Benjamín Naka-Hasebe Kingsley, an assistant professor of English in the College of Arts and Letters at Old Dominion University, was chosen as the winner in the poetry category for the 23rd annual Library of Virginia Literary Awards.

The panel honored Kingsley for his collection "Colonize Me," which was published in 2019 by Saturnalia.

Kingsley is just the second ODU faculty member to win this prestigious recognition. Janet Peery won the award for fiction in 2018 and 2008. Remica Bingham-Risher and Tim Seibles were finalists in the poetry category in 2018 and 2000, respectively.

In his review of "Colonize Me," poet Brian Simoneau described it as "a book to savor and share."

"By turns playful and earnest, Kingsley conveys a sense of the anxiety we feel when we think about where we come from and who we would like to be," Simoneau wrote. "How do we embrace an identity when it results in part from suffering? How do we move on from the past without forgetting it? By putting these questions in the context of American colonialism and its inherent violence toward marginalized groups, 'Colonize Me' offers a profound exploration of identity that could not have come at a more essential time, as yet another disturbing episode of American history plays out all around us."

In accepting the award, Kingsley thanked "librarians who raised me and read to me, librarians at whose feet I sat listening for hours, librarians who smuggled me my favorite books and who grew in me a desire to read and most importantly to imagine on the page and beyond."

He also thanked fellow ODU faculty members Sheri Reynolds, John McManus, Luisa Igloria and Kent Wascom, whom he called "some of my most favorite Virginia writers and creative colleagues," and his students from the past five years "who pushed me over the edge of insanity and made me write this book."

He also credited the late Lovelock Paiute Native American writer Adrian C. Louis, to whom the book is dedicated.

Kingsley is the author of two other collections: "Not Your Mama's Melting Pot" (University of Nebraska Press, 2018), winner or finalist for nine awards, including the International Latino Book Award, and "Dēmos," which is scheduled for publication by Milkweed Editions in March 2021.

An Affrilachian author and Kundiman alum, Kingsley is a recipient of the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center and Tickner Fellowships. He belongs to the Onondaga Nation of Indigenous Americans in New York. He has taught poetry and nonfiction in ODU's MFA program since 2019.

Kingsley's books are available for purchase at the University Village Bookstore.

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