Florida Faculty Member Wins Statewide Writing Award

December 22, 2011


A recent addition to the Saint Leo University English faculty, writer Gianna Russo has been honored by the Florida State Publishers Association for Moonflower, a volume of poetry released early in 2011 by Kitsune Books (www.kitsunebooks.com).

Moonflower was a Silver Medal Winner in the Florida Publishers Association President’s Book Awards in the poetry category. The association awards one gold medal (the top honor) and two silver medals for works in 15 categories, with the judging conducted by Florida librarians, including specialists in poetry. Consequently, said Chris Angermann, president of the Florida Publishers Association, “being named a finalist is really quite an honor.” Russo, who lives in Tampa, has been teaching English and creative writing for more than 20 years, and hasnumerous other prizes and titles to her credit. The poems in Moonflower draw on a variety of experiences and relationships, including Russo’s contemplations on her natural surroundings and the pain surrounding the passing of an elderly parent.

Russo said she is excited about the recent award partly because it helps to keep sparking interest in poetry. “It is one of the few shared experiences in America left that has not been corporatized, commercialized, or politicized,” she said, explaining why she believes in poetry’s continued significance in contemporary life. “Poetry belongs to everybody. You can be a Republican, a Democrat, an independent––anybody. Poetry belongs to you.” And, she adds, “It just makes life better.”

In addition to writing, Russo is known locally for her polished and engaging readings of her own poetry––as well as the works of other authors––to help make poetry and literature accessible to wide audiences. At Saint Leo, for instance, she served as narrator during the 2011 Christmas concert, reading Scripture and other selections (pictured) that were chosen to complement the musical offerings.

Professor Kurt Wilt, chair of the Department of English, Fine Arts, and Humanities, noted Russo brings other valuable talents to her role at Saint Leo, where she teaches composition as well as creative writing. Russo has also worked in administrative aspects of the arts, including grant writing, small press publishing, and serving on arts councils. “She is a strong example of someone with an integration of talents.”