WVW Contest Judge Bios 2015 – Valerie Nieman (Long Poetry)

Beginning our series of bios for the judges of the 2015 West Virginia Writers Annual Writing Contests.  Return here each weekday for the revelation of a new judge.


A longtime newspaper reporter and editor, Valerie Nieman now teaches creative writing at North Carolina A&T State University. She was a founding editor of Kestrel magazine at Fairmont State University, and currently the poetry editor of Prime Number magazine.  Nieman graduated from West Virginia University and Queens University of Charlotte.

Nieman was a 2013-2014 North Carolina Arts Council poetry fellow, and has received an NEA creative writing fellowship as well as major grants in West Virginia and Kentucky. Her awards include the Greg Grummer, Nazim Hikmet, and Byron Herbert Reece poetry prizes. She is the author of one other full-length poetry collection, Wake Wake Wake, in addition to two chapbooks.  Nieman is the author of three novels: Blood Clay, a novel of the New South, which was honored with the Eric Hoffer Prize in General Fiction; Survivors, a novel about the Rust Belt of the 1970s; and a science fiction title, Neena Gathering, recently reissued as a classic in the post-apocalyptic genre. A fourth book, Backwater, is now in submission, and research for a new novel included a month hiking solo in Scotland. She also has published a collection of short stories, Fidelities.

Nieman’s second poetry collection, Hotel Worthy, is being published in March. Marc Harshman, poet laureate of West Virginia, commented: "From the moment I read the title poem’s breathless rush of poignant reflections, I knew I was in the presence of a poet keen to explore life with searing honesty. Many of the poems take a close look at the natural world and her changing place within it, poems that command attention by paying attention.  Especially impressive is the way she regularly dazzles with unexpected juxtapositions of experience.  Framing a middling spousal argument in one poem is a riveting vision of an eagle.  And although the narrator’s partner notices nothing, we notice, our hearts crushed by the thwarted longing for beauty and reconciliation.  Prepare your heart – these are poems that matter."

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