The former director of Louisiana State University Press, Leslie Phillabaum, died suddenly last week. "Les" made LSU Press into one of the foremost publishers of poetry in this country. When the Academy of American Poets called me to say that my WILDWOOD FLOWER had won the Lamont Award (now the McLaughlin) for the best second book of poetry in a given year, the young woman praised LSU for doing so much for its poets and their books. She seemed genuinely glad that another LSU book had won the award. Moreover, POETS AND WRITERS plugged LSU's poetry series in an article of several years back; Les Phillabaum was given the credit he deserved for having championed poetry at his press.
Among the NC poets published by LSU Press during Les's tenure were Fred Chappell, Betty Adcock, and James Applewhite. Fred Chappell made these remarks in an essay published in 1997 in the RALEIGH NEWS/OBSERVER:
"Louisiana State University Press publishes my poetry, and poetry volumes make up a large part of its output. The director of LSU Press, Leslie Phillabaum, informs me that North Carolina buys more poetry than any other Southern state, more in fact, than any state except those with the largest metropolises, California, New York and Massaschusetts."
The entire essay, worth your reading time, can be found at http://www.ncarts.org/newsletter/sp98pgs/chappell.html.
The director emeritus of the LSU Press, Leslie “Les” Phillabaum, died Wednesday.
He was 72.
“All of us at LSU Press are shocked and saddened by Les’s death,” LSU Press Director MaryKatherine Callaway said in a statement. “He leaves behind a rich legacy.”
Phillabaum and his wife, Roberta “Robbie” Phillabaum, moved to Baton Rouge in 1970 when he was named editor and associate director of LSU Press.
He began his tenure as director in 1975 and retired in 2003.
“He had a very gentle and wonderful sense of humor,” said Robbie Phillabaum, his wife of almost 47 years.
“He never raised his voice.”
He enjoyed the opera and gardening and had a great interest in poetry, she said.
Two of the 200 books of poetry he helped publish won Pulitzer Prizes. In honor of Phillabaum, LSU Press created the L.E. Phillabaum Poetry Award in 2005.
Phillabaum saw more than 1,700 books published.
His wife said he considered “A Confederacy of Dunces” the most popular of the works.
In addition to his wife, survivors include his daughter, Diane Setzer and her husband, David; son, Scott and his wife, Priya Abeywickrama; and grandsons, Trey Setzer and Stephen Setzer.
Visitation at University Presbyterian Church is from 1 p.m. until memorial service at 3 p.m. Monday.
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