Paul Ruffin, winner of the 1997 Excellence in Research Award at Sam Houston State University, has been praised as an earthy poet with a "broad-shouldered" perspective. In addition to being a writer of prose and poetry, however, he is a teacher and the editor of a literary publication--in earthy, broad-shouldered football terms--a triple threat. He writes in a memorable and entertaining way about his experiences growing up in Mississippi, like the time he and his grandfather solved the mystery of what happened to the family cat. The poem is called "Cleaning the Well." They decided not to tell anyone. He also writes about life and death, fishing, batting rocks like all country boys did long ago, family, gigging frogs, and getting lost in the woods. Some of his poems have deep meanings. He says there are Freudian implications in "Sawdust Pile," but "I don't really care whether the readers get that or not as long as they enjoy it." This is how it goes: "Dotting the land like anthills the piles, they say, will burn for generations, seething with deep heat those long years out, cool enough on top for weeds and barefoot boys. Like early ice it lures the unwary up a greening slope firm to the foot, firm and cool up to the very peak, where the crust sags, gives way, and legs, torso, and head sink to the fierce core. There are the tales: Bo Simpson's horse, a pack of pure-blood coon hounds, Sarah Potter's little girl-- all gone to a quick hell. Out here the rattler warns, lightning strikes from a growling sky; each terror is given a tongue. But the fire lies quiet in this pile, a coiled thing, tongueless and waiting, beneath the devil's cool shell." One of his favorites is "Communion:" "My son, age five, is perplexed by the wafers and the wine his sister takes and will not be instructed on symbols, preferring in his literalist mind to think of matters of the body, not the soul. A Sunday morning I find him crouched in a sunny corner of his room, a shaft of light cleaving him like a sword, in one hand a miniature Ritz cracker, in the other a brandy glass of purple Welch. "This is the body," he says, not knowing I watch, "and this is the blood." He slides the cracker onto his tongue and chews, drains down the juice, wipes the lip of the glass with his shirt sleeve. He bows and whispers a prayer as I back from the silent, holy room, struck with the need to believe." Ruffin has had more than 500 poems and 50 stories published in various journals, magazines, anthologies and texts. He has authored, edited or co-edited 14 books. His 1996 book of poetry, "Circling," won the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Award for Poetry. He has at least seven projects underway, including five novels, a book of poetry and a book of stories. He has also done readings and workshops throughout the South, Southwest, New England, the Northwest and England, including appearances at many writing conferences and colleges and universities. He also writes a weekly column for the Huntsville Item. With all that creative activity, Ruffin still has had time to serve as founding editor, editor-in-chief and poetry editor of The Texas Review, editor and director of the Texas Review Press, which publishes the Review and books, and faculty adviser for the Sam Houston State Review. Ruffin earned his bachelor's and master's degrees from Mississippi State University, in 1964 and 1968, and his Ph. D. from the University of Southern Mississippi in 1974. He will receive $1,000 for winning the Excellence in Research Award and will be recognized at SHSU commencement exercises May 17. (end) Media Contact: Frank Krystyniak April 30, 1997