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NMSU professor, poet is finalist for national book award

"The Rare High Meadow of Which I Might Dream" is Connie Voisine's second book of poetry. However, it's the first time the NMSU associate professor's work has been named a finalist for the annual Los Angeles Times Book Prizes to be awarded later this month. Voisine is one of five finalists among authors from New York, Harvard and the University of Iowa.

Connie Voisine, associate professor of English at New Mexico State University, is a finalist for the 29th annual Los Angeles Times Book Prize in poetry.

"It's a wonderful gift that someone found my book and liked it enough to put it forward like this," Voisine said, "I've got an angel somewhere."

The 29th annual Los Angeles Times Book Prizes will be awarded at 8pm, Friday April 24, in a private ceremony at the Los Angeles Times building. The Times Book Prizes include a $1,000 cash award.

Voisine blends her own life experience into her art. While the scholarly component of her work is important, she also wants people who are not specialists in poetry to find it meaningful and rewarding.

"The first book I wrote was about that small town I grew up in," Voisine said. "It was important that if I was going to write about that town that they felt they could read it."

The fact that most copies of her first book, "Cathedral of the North," have sold in her hometown of Fort Kent, Maine, is a source of pride for Voisine.

"I grew up on the border of Canada. On one trip home, I had a customs officer tell me he liked my book, but he wanted to ask me some questions."

When Voisine came to Las Cruces in 2001, she found the way of life comparable to the rural community where she was raised.

"I was surprised at how many similarities there are," Voisine said. "Where I grew up is bilingual French, not Spanish, but still the majority of my community is bilingual, Catholic, and it's a farming community."

In her book "The Rare High Meadow of Which I Might Dream" Voisine examines how identity is wrapped up in the quest for love.

"At different phases of your life, you're obsessed with certain things," Voisine said. "When I wrote this book, I was thinking a lot about desire, commitment and marriage issues. My poems were a way I could explore those ideas."

For Voisine, who is married and has a child with Rus Bradburd, also an author and an assistant professor in the English department at NMSU, the recognition of an award nomination is flattering, but doesn't affect the way she looks at her work.

"In the end it doesn't change what you do every day," Voisine said. "I still write poems, read poems and try to use my art to sort of interpret the world and hopefully figure some of these things out."