Elana Bell Receives the 2011 Walt Whitman Award

Posted on

Apr 21 2011

Publication of first book, $5,000 cash prize,
residency at the Vermont Studio Center

New York, April 21—The Academy of American Poets announced today that Elana Bell has been selected by the poet Fanny Howe as the recipient of the 2011 Walt Whitman Award. The Walt Whitman Award is a prestigious first-book prize, given to a first collection of poetry by an American poet. The winner's book is published and distributed to thousands of members of the Academy. The Whitman Award also includes a $5,000 cash prize and a one-month residency at the Vermont Studio Center.

Elana Bell received the Award for her book-length collection of poems Eyes, Stones, which will be published in the spring of 2012 by Louisiana State University Press. Born in Venice Beach, California, the grandchild of Holocaust survivors, she received her MFA in poetry from Sarah Lawrence College.

Bell has conducted poetry workshops for educators, women in prison, and the Arab Jewish Peace Organization, Seeds of Peace. She currently serves as the writer-in-residence for the Bronx Academy of Letters and resides in Brooklyn, New York with her husband, writer Jai Chakrabarti.

Fanny Howe wrote about Bell's book:

Elana Bell has undertaken a task many others have avoided: facing the agony of the Palestine-Israel conflict and its history. She has done so in the only way it is possible: by writing with the detached but compassionate voice of a translator. She gives her voice over to others without changing her vocabulary or her beat, and in this way excludes herself from the subject matter. There are only occasional glimpses of the personal, and these are often self-critical, and lacking in certainty. Elements basic to life—bread, fruit, water, and rats—are here in profusion. These poems are built for our time.

Elana Bell is the recipient of grants and fellowships from the Jerome Foundation, the Edward Albee Foundation, and the Drisha Institute. Her poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in the Harvard Review, CALYX, and Bellevue Literary Review.

Fanny Howe has published more than twenty books of poetry and prose, including Selected Poems (University of California Press, 2000) which received the 2001 Lenore Marshall Prize from the Academy of American Poets, and most recently, What Did I Do Wrong (Flood Editions, 2009). Howe's awards and honors include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the California Council for the Arts, the Bunting Institute, and the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. She is currently the Visiting Chair at the Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice at Georgetown. A new collection of poems, Come and See, is due out this spring from Graywolf Press.

The Walt Whitman Award, established in 1975, is an annual competition judged by a distinguished poet and is open to any citizen of the United States who has neither published nor committed to publish a book of poetry. Book-length manuscripts may be submitted to the Academy of American Poets between September 15 and November 15 of each year. An entry form and fee are required. For guidelines and an entry form, visit the Academy of American Poets' website, www.poets.org/whitman, or send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to the Academy in August.

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; 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.

Louisiana State University Press, established in 1935, is one of the oldest and largest university presses in the South and one of the outstanding publishers of scholarly and regional books in the country. Its long-standing commitment to publishing fine contemporary poetry extends back more than four decades. Since 1964 the Press has published more than 250 books of poetry by more than 100 poets, and many of these volumes have received such honors as the Lamont Poetry Selection, the National Book Critics' Circle Award, the Poets' Prize, the American Book Award, the National Book Award, and Pulitzer Prizes.

The Vermont Studio Center offers four to twelve week studio residencies year-round to poets, painters, sculptors, printmakers, photographers, and writers. The setting is the banks of the Gihon River in rural Johnson, Vermont, a village of 2,500 located in the heart of the northern Green Mountains. Each Studio Center Residency features undistracted working time, the companionship of fifty artists and writers from across the country and around the world, and access to a roster of prominent Visiting Artists and Writers. All residencies include comfortable housing, beautiful private studio space, and superb food. Two Visiting Writers per month are in residence at the Studio Center for one week each to offer readings, a craft talk, and optional conferences with each of the 12-16 writing residents. For more information go to www.vermontstudiocenter.org.