The Academy of American Poets Announces the Recipients of the 2016 American Poets Prizes

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Sep 07 2016

The Academy of American Poets is pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 American Poets Prizes, which are among the most valuable poetry prizes in the United States. This year the organization has awarded over $200,000 to poets at various stages of their careers.

SHARON OLDS has received the WALLACE STEVENS AWARD, which is given annually to recognize outstanding and proven mastery in the art of poetry. Established in 1994, the award carries a stipend of $100,000. Recipients are nominated and elected by a majority vote of the Academy’s Board of Chancellors. Past winners of the prize have included John Ashbery, Yusef Komunyakaa, and Adrienne Rich.

Sharon Olds’s books of poetry include Stag’s Leap (Alfred A. Knopf, 2012), recipient of the Pulitzer Prize and the T. S. Eliot Prize; One Secret Thing (Random House, 2008); and Strike Sparks: Selected Poems (Alfred A. Knopf, 2004). Her numerous honors include a National Endowment for the Arts grant and a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship. Olds held the position of New York state poet laureate from 1998 to 2000 and served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 2006 to 2012. She currently teaches at New York University’s Creative Writing Program and lives in New York City.

About Sharon Olds, Academy of American Poets Chancellor Mark Doty said: “With unfailing courage and a profound moral intelligence, with an unshakable faith in the necessity of inquiry into experience, Sharon Olds has crafted a life’s work of remarkable power. The driving rhythms and artful structures of her poems are in service of a rigorous examination of her own life, and the lives of those around her. By writing with such candor and clarity, Olds has granted younger poets – especially women – permission to speak. Her poems, in their evocation of trauma or desire, in their grief and joy and comedy, have opened new possibilities for poetry in our time. She is an American master, and a national treasure.”

NATASHA TRETHEWEY has received the ACADEMY OF AMERICAN POETS FELLOWSHIP. Established in 1936 and given in memory of James Ingram Merrill, this prize recognizes distinguished poetic achievement and carries with it a stipend of $25,000. Fellows are nominated and elected by a majority vote of the Academy’s Board of Chancellors. Past recipients include Gwendolyn Brooks, Robert Frost, and Ezra Pound.

Natasha Trethewey’s collections of poetry include Thrall (Houghton Mifflin, 2012); Native Guard (Houghton Mifflin, 2006), which received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry; and Bellocq’s Ophelia (Graywolf Press, 2002). Her honors include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation. In 2012, Trethewey was named as both the state poet laureate of Mississippi and the 19th U.S. poet laureate by the Library of Congress. She is the Robert W. Woodruff Professor of English and Creative Writing at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.

About Natasha Trethewey Academy of American Poets Chancellor Marilyn Nelson said: “Natasha Trethewey’s poems plumb personal and national history to meditate on the conundrum of American racial identities. Whether writing of her complex family torn by tragic loss, or in diverse imagined voices from the more distant past, Trethewey encourages us to reflect, learn, and experience delight. The wide scope of her interests and her adept handling of form have created an opus of classics both elegant and necessary.”

LYNN EMANUEL’s book The Nerve of It: Poems New and Selected (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015) has received the LENORE MARSHALL POETRY PRIZE. Awarded by the Academy of American Poets since 1994, this $25,000 prize recognizes the most outstanding book of poetry published in the United States in the previous year. Past recipients include Wanda Coleman, Mark Jarman, and Stanley Kunitz. The judges were Amy Gerstler, Reginald Gibbons, and Kimiko Hahn.

Lynn Emanuel is the author of five books of poetry, including The Nerve of It: Poems New and Selected (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015); Noose and Hook (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2010); and The Dig (University of Illinois Press, 1992), which was selected by Gerald Stern for the National Poetry Series. Her honors include two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and a fellowship from the Civitella Ranieri Foundation. Emanuel has taught at Bennington College, Vermont College, and Warren Wilson College, among others. She is currently a professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Pittsburgh.

About Emanuel’s winning book, Judges Amy Gerstler, Reginald Gibbons, and Kimiko Hahn said: “Every poem in Lynn Emanuel’s The Nerve of It brims with unfailing invention and virtuoso wordcraft. This volume of new and selected poems is a beautifully integrated whole, the arc of a life: heady, bold, vivid, sexy, intensely envisioned, metaphorically brilliant. The Nerve of It is a witty and courageous body of work.

MARY HICKMAN’s book Rayfish (Omnidawn, 2017) has won the JAMES LAUGHLIN AWARD, which is given to recognize and support a second book of poetry forthcoming in the next calendar year. Offered since 1954 and endowed in 1995 by the Drue Heinz Trust, the annual award is named for the poet and publisher James Laughlin, founder of New Directions. The winning poet receives a cash prize of $5,000; a one-week residency at the Betsy Hotel in Miami; and the Academy of American Poets distributes copies of the book to thousands of its members. Past recipients include Donald Hall, Sharon Olds, and Vijay Seshadri. The judges were Ellen Bass, Jericho Brown, and Carmen Giménez Smith.

Mary Hickman is the author of Rayfish, which is forthcoming from Omnidawn in 2017, and This Is the Homeland (Ahsahta Press, 2015). A visiting professor at Nebraska Wesleyan University, Hickman also teaches in the University of Iowa International Writing Program’s Between the Lines exchange program. She lives in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Judge Carmen Giménez Smith wrote about Hickman’s winning book: “Each poem in Mary Hickman's Rayfish is a scrupulous consideration of how art disturbs, distorts, informs and shapes our history of engagement with the artificial world. Personal, ekphrastic, and essayistic, these poems are also an incisive contemplation on memory-making and that mechanism’s effect on aesthetics.”

RON PADGETT’s Zone: Selected Poems by Guillaume Apollinaire (NYRB Poets, 2015) has won the HAROLD MORTON LANDON TRANSLATION AWARD. Founded in 1976, this $1,000 prize recognizes a published translation of poetry from any language into English that demonstrates literary excellence. This year’s judge was Peter Cole.

Ron Padgett is the author of many books of poetry, including Collected Poems (Coffee House Press, 2013), which received the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in poetry; How Long (Coffee House Press, 2011); and  How to Be Perfect (Coffee House Press, 2007). For his translations, Padgett has received grants and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, and Columbia University’s Translation Center. He was the publications director of Teachers & Writers Collaborative for twenty years, and served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 2008 to 2013. Padgett lives in New York City.

Judge Peter Cole said of Padgett’s winning translation: “Savvy, dexterity, boldness, tact— all click into quietly electric place in Zone, Ron Padgett’s masterfully textured collection of Apollinaire’s poems. ‘Fifty years of affection and respect’ is how Padgett characterizes his lifelong engagement with that most classical of French modernists. Whatever else is behind it, one feels a fortuitous conjunction of source and sorcerer as a kind of base-line hum beneath these translations: ‘Men of the future remember my living / At a time when kingship was dying,’ says Apollinaire-through-Padgett, the floating valence and melic spell linking the generations and their poets. For the high-wire artfulness of the rendered verse, for the honest smarts of his translator’s note, for the intelligent warmth of the annotation, for the sheer, informed joy of it all, Ron Padgett’s Zone: Selected Poems by Guillaume Apollinaire takes home this year’s Landon laurels.”

STEPHEN SARTARELLI’s The Selected Poetry of Pier Paolo Pasolini (University of Chicago Press, 2014) has won the RAIZISS/DE PALCHI BOOK PRIZE. Established in 1995, this $10,000 prize is given for the translation into English of a significant work of modern Italian poetry. The judges were Adria Bernardi, Antonello Borra, and Alessandro Carrera.

Sartarelli is the author of three books of poetry: The Open Vault (Spuyten Duyvil, 2001), The Runaway Woods (Spuyten Duyvil, 2000), and Grievances and Other Poems (Gnosis Press, 1989). He has translated over forty books of fiction and poetry from the Italian and French. Sartarelli’s honors include grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities for the ongoing translation of Horcynus Orca by Stefano D’Arrigo, originally published in 1975. He currently lives in the Périgord region of South West France.

Judges Antonello Borra and Alessandro Carrera wrote of Sartarelli’s winning translation: “Thanks to Stephen Sartarelli’s magnificent volume, flawless translation and sound scholarly apparatus, the English-speaking readership will now be aware that Pier Paolo Pasolini was as great as a poet, and possibly even greater, as he was a filmmaker. Not only does Sartarelli intelligently select and elegantly translate from Pasolini’s poetic opus, he also gives us a clear, informed introduction, a useful, concise set of notes, and an essential bibliography. This book is a must have for both scholars and lovers of poetry alike.”

DONTE COLLINS has won the ALIKI PERROTI AND SETH FRANK MOST PROMISING YOUNG POET AWARD for his poem “what the dead know by heart.” Established in 2013, the award recognizes a student poet with a cash prize of $1,000. The prize is open to winners, who are twenty-three years old or younger, of the current year’s University & College Poetry Prizes, also given by the Academy of American Poets. Submissions are judged by one of the past or current members of the Academy’s Board of Chancellors. This year’s judge was Toi Derricotte.

Donte Collins was born on May 4, 1996 in Chicago Heights, Illinois. He is a Theatre and English double major at Augsburg College and author of the forthcoming chapbook autopsies. Collins sits on the youth advisory board of TruArtSpeaks, a nonprofit encouraging literacy, leadership, and social justice through the study and application of spoken word and hip-hop culture, and is an editor at Button Poetry, the largest distributor of spoken word poetry in the world. Collins performs across the country and has had his work featured on AfroPunk, Elephant Journal, Feminist Culture, and more. He lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

About “what the dead know by heart,” Toi Derricotte said: “I am amazed and thrilled by the formal sophistication and the emotional maturity of this young poet. While it is brave, and necessary, to name the names and the count the wounds of the boys who have been murdered, Donte Collins goes much deeper. He captures the trembling heart of the living boy as he walks through the world in his targeted body. ‘what the dead know by heart’ takes us beneath the armament to the fraught existence of one who wonders ‘if the gun that will unmake me/ is yet made;’ one whose survival is conditional on another’s death, ‘today I did/not die . . . the bullet missed my head/and landed in another.’ This is a voice to be encouraged. I look forward to reading Donte Collins in the future.”

The Academy of American Poets sponsors over 200 annual UNIVERSITY & COLLEGE POETRY PRIZES, distributing close to $25,000 each year. Many of America’s most esteemed poets won their first recognition through this program, including Mark Doty, Louise Glück, Jorie Graham, Joy Harjo, Robert Hass, Li-Young Lee, Robert Pinsky, Sylvia Plath, and Mark Strand.

About the Academy of American Poets

The Academy of American Poets is the largest member-supported nonprofit organization fostering an appreciation for contemporary poetry and supporting American poets. The organization produces Poets.org, the world’s largest publicly-funded website for poets and poetry; National Poetry Month; the popular Poem-a-Day series; American Poets magazine; resources for K-12 educators; and an annual series of poetry readings and special events. In addition, since its founding in 1934, the Academy has awarded more money to poets than any other organization through its American Poets Prizes. For more information, visit Poets.org.