NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Keith Ratzlaff is, among other things, a multiple-award-winning poet, a Mennonite originally from Henderson, Neb., and a professor of English at a small liberal arts college in Iowa.
He is also a graduate of Bethel College and will be featured in the convocation of his alma mater on Monday, Nov. 27, at 11 a.m. in Krehbiel Auditorium of the Fine Arts Center. Ratzlaff will read from his latest book of poetry, Dubious Angels (Anhinga Press, 2005). His most recent award is a Pushcart Prize, given to honor work from small publishers in the United States.
“The Pushcart Prize is awarded for the best work published in little magazines and by small presses during [a particular year],” Ratzlaff said. “It’s a mix of the great – people like Wendell Berry and W.S. Merwin – and people like me – the good, maybe? I’m obviously honored to be included.
“I’ve been nominated a number of times by editors and friends, but the competition is pretty fierce,” he continued. “Literally hundreds of poems, stories and essays are considered. My award was for a poem published in the Colorado Review last year, entitled ‘Portrait of Her Mother as the 19th Century.’”
Ratzlaff’s poetry has been receiving national attention since poet Robert Dana selected Ratzlaff’s first collection of poetry, Man Under a Pear Tree, for the 1996 Anhinga Prize for Poetry. Loess Hills Press published Ratzlaff’s second book of poems, Across the Known World, in the same year.
While Man Under a Pear Tree draws its title from a painting by Paul Klee and refers to Klee’s paintings throughout, Dubious Angels is subtitled “Poems after Paul Klee” and every poem in the book directly relates to one of Klee’s paintings. A number of images of those paintings appear in the book alongside the poems.
Ratzlaff has also published two chapbooks of poetry as well as individual poems in major poetry journals including Poetry Northwest, which awarded him its 1996 Theodore Roethke Prize. Other poems and reviews have appeared in The Georgia Review, New England Review, The Threepenny Review, Colorado Review and The North American Review. His poems are included in two recent anthologies, Poets of the New Century (David R. Godine, 2001) and in A Cappella: Mennonite Voices in Poetry (University of Iowa Press, 2003).
Ratzlaff earned his B.A. degree from Bethel College (1975) and his M.F.A. from Indiana University. He is associate professor of English at Central College in Pella, Iowa, where he teaches writing and literature. He is the son of Marie Ratzlaff of North Newton and also has a sister and brother-in-law, Jeanne and Vern Dreier, living in Hesston.
Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Founded in 1887, it is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and has been named a Top Tier college by U.S. News & World Report every year since 1998. For more information, see the Bethel Web site at www.bethelks.edu.