Brenda Shaughnessy Receives the James Laughlin Award

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Sep 10 2007

New York, September 10—The Academy of American Poets is pleased to announce that Brenda Shaughnessy's collection Human Dark with Sugar (Copper Canyon Press) has been chosen by poets Peter Gizzi, Matthea Harvey, and Caroline Knox to receive the 2007 James Laughlin Award, which gives $5,000 to the most outstanding second book by an American poet. The finalist for the award is Kate Northrop, for her collection Things Are Disappearing Here (Persea Books).

About the selection, Caroline Knox says, "In Human Dark with Sugar, the speaker's voice brims with verve, rueful good humor, and self-knowledge: 'To be wise is simply to be understood, even missed.'" Fellow jury member Matthea Harvey writes, "Human Dark with Sugar is both wonderfully inventive (studded with the strangenesses of 'snownovas' and 'flukeprints') and emotionally precise. Her 'I' is madly multidexterous—urgent, comic, mischievous—and the result is a new topography of the debates between heart and head." Peter Gizzi comments on "The agility and surprise of the book's verbal sleights of hand and the immediacy of its address, its braiding of an existential dark with the 'sugar' of eros."

Brenda Shaughnessy
Brenda Shaughnessy's first book of poems, Interior with Sudden Joy, was nominated for the PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award for Poetry, a Lambda Literary Award, and the Norma Farber First Book Award. She is the recipient of a Bunting Fellowship at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, and a Japan/U.S. Friendship Commission Artist Fellowship. Her poems have appeared in Best American Poetry, Bomb, Boston Review, Conjunctions, McSweeney’s, The New Yorker, the Paris Review, the Yale Review, and elsewhere. She is the poetry editor at Tin House magazine and currently teaches creative writing at Princeton University and Eugene Lang College at the New School.

Peter Gizzi
Peter Gizzi's books include Some Values of Landscape and Weather, Artificial Heart, and Periplum. His honors include the Lavan Younger Poets Award from the Academy of American Poets and fellowships from the Howard Foundation, The Foundation for Contemporary Arts, and The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. His new collection, The Outernationale, was released from Wesleyan earlier this year.

Matthea Harvey
The author of Sad Little Breathing Machine and Pity the Bathtub Its Forced Embrace of the Human Form, Matthea Harvey's third book of poems, Modern Life, is forthcoming from Graywolf in 2007. Her first children's book, The Little General and the Giant Snowflake, illustrated by Elizabeth Zechel, is forthcoming from Soft Skull Press.

Caroline Knox
Caroline Knox's collection He Paves the Road with Iron Bars won the 2005 Maurice English Award for a book by a poet over 50. Her previous collections include A Beaker: New and Selected Poems, The House Party, To Newfoundland, and Sleepers Wake. She has received awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ingram Merrill Foundation, the Yale/Mellon Visiting Faculty Program, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, The Fund for Poetry, the Senior Fellowship Program of the Fine Arts Work Center, and Poetry magazine's Bess Hokin Prize.

The James Laughlin Award
The James Laughlin Award is given to commend and support a poet's second book of poetry. The award was established by a gift to the Academy from the Drue Heinz Trust in honor of the poet and publisher James Laughlin (1914–1997). As a sophomore at Harvard College, James Laughlin founded New Directions, one of the most important publishers of twentieth-century literature. Writers whose work has been published by New Directions include Franz Kafka, James Joyce, Denise Levertov, Henry Miller, Ezra Pound, Delmore Schwartz, Gertrude Stein, Tennessee Williams, and William Carlos Williams. Mr. Laughlin was the author of numerous books of fiction, essays, and poetry, including Collected Poems (1993), The Man in the Wall (1993), and Random Stories (1990).

The Academy of American Poets
The Academy of American Poets is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 1934 to foster appreciation for contemporary poetry and to support American poets at all stages of their careers. For over three generations, the Academy has connected millions of people to great poetry through programs such as National Poetry Month, the largest literary celebration in the world; Poets.org, the most popular site about poetry on the web, presenting a wealth of great poems, audio recordings, poet biographies, essays, and interactive discussions about poetry; the Poetry Audio Archive, capturing the voices of contemporary American poets for generations to come; American Poet, a biannual literary journal; and our annual series of poetry readings and special events. The Academy also awards prizes to accomplished poets at all stages of their careers—from hundreds of student prizes at colleges nationwide to the Wallace Stevens Award for lifetime achievement in the art of poetry. For more information, visit www.poets.org.

The Drue Heinz Trust
A private charitable foundation directed by Drue Heinz, the widow of the "57 Varieties" former chairman, the current publisher of the Paris Review, and the former publisher of Antaeus, the international quarterly of contemporary literature. Mrs. Heinz and James Laughlin were long-time friends and colleagues, sharing a vital interest in good writing.