Chera Hammons is Amarillo’s poet laureate. Okay, so that’s not an official title. Yet. But if you read her bio — Writer-in-Residence at West Texas A&M University, 2019 Pushcart Prize nominee, 2017 PEN Southwest Poetry Award, just for starters — I’m sure there would be a consensus. She has a new collection of poetry that was released last week, Maps of Injury, with a release party/reading/signing to be held at Burrowing Owl Books on March 19, hosted by the High Plains Poetry Project.
Maps of Injury (Sundress Publications, March 4) also made Lone Star Literary Life’s March Texas Books Preview (more on that later).
Oh, by the way, she’s also a novelist whose debut literary work, Monarchs of the Northeast Kingdom, just got a RAVE review from Kirkus. The national trade publication known for its sometimes scathing reviews said Chera’s upcoming novel (Torrey House Press, May 19) is “A highly satisfying, delicately woven story about loss, loneliness, life, and death.”
Every novelist wishes they could get a review like this for their debut novel. For an Amarillo resident to get such major national exposure is incredible.
What makes it even cooler, in my opinion, is that she didn’t know Kirkus would review the book. She called it “a wonderful surprise.”
Here’s to you, Chera Hammons. And thank you for elevating the literary scene in our neck of the woods.
A prodigal son returns
Speaking of locals setting the literary world on fire with debut novels … Amarillo native and current New Yorker Rye Curtis read the beginning of his acclaimed debut novel, Kingdomtide (Little, Brown and Co.; January 14), and answered our questions during a signing event late last month at the Barnes & Noble in Amarillo.
To give you an idea of how big a splash this book is making, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author (Jennifer Egan) called it “truly spectacular”; Booker Prize-winner Roddy Doyle said it “is the best novel I’ve read in a long time”; and James Hannaham, winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award, called Rye “a fireball of talent.”
Here’s hoping he wins one of those prestigious awards. And no matter what happens from here, you’ve made us all proud.
Meanwhile, also in the Texas Panhandle
The Amarillo literary and medical community is coming together to give every baby born at Northwest Texas Hospital a book to be read by their parents. Next year, the new program, Born to Read 806, wants to include Baptist St. Anthony’s Hospital. What an amazing program. Born to Read 806: Books for Babies (Lone Star Literary Life)
The Chisholm Trail: Joseph McCoy’s Great Gamble by James E. Sherow has been named the inaugural Outstanding Western Book by West Texas A&M University’s Center for the Study of the American West. Outstanding Western Book Winner Named (Lone Star Literary Life)
In addition to Hammons’s new poetry collection, the March Texas Books Preview includes Perryton author John R. Erickson’s newest Hank the Cowdog book, The Frozen Rodeo, and a new book about Georgia O’Keeffe’s Wartime Texas Letters by West Texas A&M professor/director Amy Von Lintel. March Texas Books Preview (Lone Star Literary Life)