Jake Adam York's Abide Up for Posthumous Award as Copper Nickel Rises Again

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When poet Jake Adam York died suddenly of a stroke in December 2012 at the age of forty, he left behind an unpublished book of poetry, Abide, and a literary journal, Copper Nickel, which he'd founded a decade earlier at the University of Colorado Denver. This year Abide was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award; it's now one of three finalists for a Colorado Book Award in the poetry category. And after a two-year hiatus, Copper Nickel has started a new chapter under managing editor Wayne Miller, with issue 20 now on the shelves.

Abide was already in the editing process at Southern Illinois University Press when York passed away; SIU had already published two of York’s prior works through the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry: A Murmuration of Starlings (2008) and Persons Unknown (2010). “Jake had finished Abide on his own, and had sent it to his publisher shortly before his death,” says Brian Barker, CU Denver English professor and poetry editor. He and fellow English professor Nicky Beer "worked with his editor at Southern Illinois University Press to help proof it, etc.," Barker adds. "But the book is wholly Jake's work and vision.” 

The Colorado Book Award winners will be announced June 21 in Aspen. The Book Bar has been hosting readings of the finalists; in late April, Beer and Barker read some of York’s poems. “I believe that literature and poetry particularly are forms most able to convey the complexity of human experience. Because we’re all not just all-loving beings, or all-hateful beings, we're combinations,” says Josephine Jones, director of programs at Colorado Humanities, which hosts the book awards.  “It's a complex problem to express, and Jake's poetry transcended the complexity of the form, but still used all its technical medium — the technical conveyances — of poetry to get across very simple ideas about justice, and love, and hate.”

Copper Nickel #19 was also in the works when York died; that volume was published in May 2013 as a tribute to the poet, and then the UC Denver put the publication on hold. But at the end of March 2014, the school announced that it had hired Miller, who would be stepping in as managing editor after he finished up the spring semester at the University of Central Missouri as an English/creative writing professor and editor-in-chief of the literary journal Pleiades.

“I thought that the opportunity of editing Copper Nickel was really exciting. It's a journal that has a ton of potential and a ton of institutional support, and already has a really good reputation,” says Miller. “For an editor, it's kind of a dream job to come into this journal that is already doing really well, but I’m excited about moving to try new things and to expand.”

Miller is a poet with three poetry collections — Only the Senses Sleep (2006), The Book of Props (2009) and The City, Our City (2011) — and a forthcoming book, Post, slated for publication in 2016 through Milkweed Editions. His teaching load is lighter at CU Denver than it was in Missouri, giving him more time to devote to the journal that York started. 

“I knew Jake… Every poet in America knows every other poet in America," says Miller. "That's not really true, but it's almost true. I had met Jake; I gave a reading at CU Denver in 2007 as my first book came out....I've been published in Copper Nickel a couple times. As editors, we would talk shop. At Pleiades we were trying to figure out these online submission programs, trying to figure out which one to use. I remember consulting with Jake about which one Copper Nickel had just started using. There's a way that editors, writers and poets tend to know each other through a variety of things—readings, conferences, that kind of stuff.”

And with Miler at the helm, Copper Nickel is back, on a March/September publication schedule now that #20 is out. “We slightly reduced the size of it," Miller explains. "It used to be 8"x10", now it's 7"x9". The previous model was sort of a tabletop book, one that you would leave out, and it's beautiful. I like a journal that you can carry a little more, so making it a little smaller makes it easier to carry, but it's still a large-format journal."

While the size has changed, Copper Nickel maintains York’s original vision of allowing undergraduate students to work on a nationally distributed literary journal — something usually reserved for grad students.  “It's unique," says Miller. "I don't know of another journal that is both clearly national in its aspirations — that wants to be a significant contributor to the national conversation — and at the same time is giving a lot of students really close access, or really good access, to what's going on internally. Most of the big national magazines have like maybe two interns and that's it. Here students are really participating. But they're doing the work alongside faculty, they're not making final decisions. It’s part of why I was hired.”
And just as undergrads are intrinsic to the Copper Nickel process, Coloradans are integral to the Colorado Book Awards. An army of volunteers — librarians, writers and ardent readers, all from Colorado — judge the awards.  “We are proud that it's a Colorado people's choice award,” says Jones. “It's open to all creators of Colorado books who have published the year before, and it's selected and judged by Colorado creators of other books.”

See issues of the Copper Nickel here. Keep reading for the finalists in the Colorado Book Awards:


Outdoors in the Southwest by Andrew Gulliford, editor (University of Oklahoma Press)
A Democracy of Poets in the Roaring Fork Valley and Beyond by Kim Nuzzo, Marjorie DeLuca, Cameron Scott, and Rett Harper, editors (AGS Publishing)
The Circle Book: A Conjeos County Anthology 2014 by Conejos Writers Circle, compilers (Alacrity House)

Children's Literature
Shep the Turnpike Dog by Charlotte Ann Havey (Bear Paw Print)
Mama Built a Little Nest by Jennifer Ward, illustrated by Steve Jenkins (Beach Lane Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster)
The Baby Sea Turtle by S.A. Mahan, illustrated by Deborah Mahan (Tate Publishing)

Creative Nonfiction
Misdiagnosed: One Woman's Tour of-and Escape From-Healthcareland by Jody Berger (Sourcebooks, Inc.)
An Anthropologist's Arrival by Chip Colwell-Chanthaphonh and Stephen E. Nash, editors (The University of Arizona Press)
Both Sides Now; A True Story of Love, Loss, and Bold Living by Nancy Sharp (Books & Books Press)

General Nonfiction
The Wild Wisdom of Weeds: 13 Essential Plants for Human Survival by Katrina Blair (Chelsea Green Publishing)
Eating Dangerously by Michael Booth and Jennifer Brown (Rowman & Littlefield)
Soldier Girls by Helen Thorpe (Scribner, a division of Simon & Schuster)

Historical Fiction
A Quilt for Christmas by Sandra Dallas (St. Martin's Press)
Song of the Jayhawk by Jack Marshall Maness (Wooden Stake Press)
The Circle of Na'mow by Anna McDermott and Gretchen Wiegand (McDermott & Wiegand)

Creating the American West by Derek R. Everett (University of Oklahoma Press)
Encounters at the Heart of the World: A History of the Mandan People by Elizabeth A. Fenn (Hill & Wang, a division of Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
Citizen Explorer: The Life of Zebulon Pike by Jared Orsi (Oxford University Press)

Juvenile Literature
Red Berries, White Clouds, Blue Sky by Sandra Dallas (Sleeping Bear Press)
Letters From Heaven by Lydia Gil (Arte Público Press)
Searching for Silverheels by Jeannie Mobley (Margaret K. McElderry Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster)

Literary Fiction
The Painter by Peter Heller (Alfred A. Knopf)
Stars Go Blue by Laura Pritchett (Counterpoint)
Cry Father by Benjamin Whitmer (Gallery Books, a division of Simon & Schuster)

The Last Heir by Chuck Greaves (Minotaur Books, an imprint of St. Martin's Press)
Strangers, Lovers and the Winds of Time by Dale Lovin (Oak Tree Press)
Trapline by Mark Stevens (Midnight Ink, an imprint of Llewelyn Worldwide Ltd.)

High Road to Aspen by Paul Andersen with photographs by David Hiser (ERG Press)
Goodnight Brew by Ann E. Briated (Bailiwick Press)
Wild Light by Erik Stensland (Morning Light Photography)

Ghost Gear by Andrew McFadyen-Ketchum (The University of Arkansas Press)
Gray Matter by Sara Michas-Martin (Fordham University Press)
Abide by Jake Adam York (Crab Orchard Review & Southern Illinois University Press)

Short Story Collection
The Seven Stages of Anger and Other Stories by Wendy J. Fox (Press 53)
The Rise & Fall of the Scandamerican Domestic by Christopher Merkner (Coffee House Press)
Sanctuary: Family, Friends, & Strangers: A collection of stories by Lucinda Stein (Create Space)

The Intern's Handbook by Shane Kuhn (Simon & Schuster)
The House of Bathory by Linda Lafferty (Lake Union Publishing)
Dead Wrong by Patricia Stoltey (Gale Cengage Learning)

Young Adult Literature
Lost Girl Found by Leah Bassoff and Laura DeLuca (Groundwood Books, House of Anansi Press)
No Summit out of Sight by Jordan Romero with Linda LeBlanc (Simon & Schuster)
Flame by Amy Kathleen Ryan (St. Martin's Griffin)

Find out more about the Colorado Book Awards here.

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