New York, NY (September 19, 2023)—The Academy of American Poets is pleased to announce the winners of the 2023 American Poets Prizes, many of which are among the most prestigious poetry prizes in the United States.
“The Academy commits more than $1.3 million each year to support poets in a myriad of ways—from funding vibrant community projects by laureates across the nation to launching first books by aspiring poets, and honoring distinguished lifetime achievements by masters of the art form,” said Tess O’Dwyer, Board Chair. “On behalf of the Directors, it’s a great joy to congratulate Afaa Michael Weaver on receiving the 2023 Wallace Stevens Award and Major Jackson on receiving the Academy of American Poets Fellowship. Felicitations to the other 2023 winners.”
“Honoring poetic achievements remains central to the Academy’s mission,” said Ricardo Maldonado, President and Executive Director of the Academy of American Poets. “We celebrate these emerging and established poets and translators as they channel the power of poetry to help us redefine ourselves across centuries and geographies while forging lasting communities.”
AFAA MICHAEL WEAVER has received the WALLACE STEVENS AWARD, which is given annually to recognize outstanding and proven mastery in the art of poetry. The award carries a stipend of $100,000. Recipients are nominated and elected by the Academy’s Board of Chancellors.
Weaver, a poet, playwright, and translator, is the author of numerous poetry collections, including A Fire in the Hills (Red Hen Press, 2023). He is the recipient of the May Sarton Award, a Pew Fellowship, a Fulbright scholarship, and the Gold Friendship Medal from the Beijing Writers’ Association; was the first African American poet to serve as Poet-in-Residence at Bucknell University’s Stadler Center for Poetry & Literary Arts; and held an endowed chair at Simmons College for twenty years. He has been on the faculty at Cave Canem since its inception, becoming its first elder in 1998.
Academy Chancellor Kwame Dawes observes of Weaver: “For over three decades, Afaa Michael Weaver has quietly and without fanfare put together a tremendous body of work that has allowed us to see the America of the last half century in all its upheavals and transformations as it contends with the meaning of freedom and justice. He combines his rootedness in the African American poetic with a fierce commitment to the idea of belonging despite America’s long history of willfully deferring the dream of liberty, to, in effect, compel the nation to expand its understanding of itself and to embrace a more capacious sense of its constitution. And in so doing, Weaver has achieved something that only a few poets, most notably Joseph Millard and Philip Levine, have in the last few decades, which is to engage the idea of a working-class sensibility, not as a limitation, but as an opportunity to create art of depth, sophistication, and spiritual power. Afaa Michael Weaver is a major and necessary American voice.”
MAJOR JACKSON has received the ACADEMY OF AMERICAN POETS FELLOWSHIP. Given in memory of James Ingram Merrill with generous support from the T. S. Eliot Foundation, this prize recognizes distinguished poetic achievement and carries with it a stipend of $25,000 and a residency at the Eliot House in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Fellows are nominated and elected by the Academy’s Board of Chancellors.
Jackson is the author of six collections of poetry, most recently Razzle Dazzle: New & Selected Poems (W. W. Norton, 2023). A recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, a Pushcart Prize, and a Whiting Award, he has been honored by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Pew Foundation, and the Witter Bynner Foundation in conjunction with the Library of Congress. He serves as the host of the celebrated podcast The Slowdown, from APM Studios and the Poetry Foundation. He is the poetry editor of the Harvard Review and the Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Chair in the Humanities at Vanderbilt University.
Recognizing Jackson’s body of work, Academy Chancellor Marilyn Chin notes: “Eclectic but refined, musical, talky, and witty, Major Jackson’s poems celebrate a wide swath of humanity through a very personal lens. Consider this seemingly ordinary confession: ‘What is my life but constant entering / into a dizzying churn of days / ping-ponging like numbered balls / in a glass air machine.’ Major freely employs alliteration, onomatopoeia, line breaks, and linguistic play to embellish the stories of our quotidian lives. Indeed, Major has the ear for both the streets and traditional form: from free sonnets to urban basketball riffs, from a long epistle to Gwendolyn Brooks to Chinese-inspired landscapes. Whether grieving for a departed mother or confessing to a failed marriage (or swaggering love), whether channeling Tupac or waxing social/political, Major Jackson tells his tales with an unforgettable sizzling bounce in every step.”
PROMISING YOUNG POET
EDGAR MORALES has won the ALIKI PERROTI AND SETH FRANK MOST PROMISING YOUNG POET AWARD for his poem “Swim.” The award recognizes a student poet with a cash prize of $1,000. The prize is open to twenty-three year-old or younger winners of the current year’s University & College Poetry Prizes, also given by the Academy of American Poets.
Edgar Morales is a current senior at Dartmouth College, where he is working towards a BA in English with a concentration in creative writing and Latin American, Latino, and Caribbean studies. His work has appeared in Hands that Speak: Voices from the Upper Valley Dairy Farms and Hipocrita Lector. Born and raised in Los Angeles, he is the son of Mexican parents.
Academy Chancellor Dorriane Laux writes of “Swim”: “The pleasures of Edgar Morales’s poem ‘Swim’ are many. I love the way the poem moves fluidly between two worlds, the world of the womb and the Yosemite Pool where the poet’s mother learned to swim while pregnant. How we move through the trimesters of gestation, kicking off the walls of the womb as the mother kicks off the side of the pool. The small fact I learned: that the mother breathes in ‘double the amount of oxygen’ and pumps ninety percent of it to the fetus. That we are pushed ‘into a world that warns / you of the dangers of drowning without teaching you how to swim.’ The final line again praises the mother in her generosity, reminding us of the daily sacrifices she makes to bring a new body into the world.”
AMA CODJOE’s book, Bluest Nude (Milkweed Press, 2022), has received the LENORE MARSHALL POETRY PRIZE. This $25,000 prize recognizes the most outstanding book of poetry published in the United States in the previous year.
Codjoe has received a 2023 Whiting Award, a 2017 Rona Jaffe Writer’s Award, a creative writing fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Jerome Hill Artist Fellowship, and a NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellowship. She is the 2023 Poet-in-Residence at the Guggenheim Museum. Bluest Nude was a finalist for both the NAACP Image Award in Outstanding Poetry and the Paterson Poetry Prize.
The judges’ citation from Shane McCrae, January Gill O’Neil, and Monica Youn reads: “Bluest Nude stands as a remarkable testament to Codjoe’s mastery of language, as she weaves words into intricate tapestries of imagery and emotion. Her ability to intertwine the personal with universal themes demonstrates a keen understanding of the human condition, inviting readers to connect with the heartbeats in her poems. With this book, Ama Codjoe arrives fully formed, as only the strongest poets do. It might have been a fifth book, rather than a first, except fifth books are infrequently so fresh, so surprising, so at ease with their own techniques, and the clarity of vision the reader finds in Bluest Nude is just plain rare. Through a number of means, but especially through the precise lens she trains upon the female body, Codjoe achieves a high goal of poetry: the startling revelation of the deeply known. In the title poem from the collection, she writes, ‘In the flower of my body— / blossoms belonging, / at last, / to me, / sovereign / place, where I am no one / but myself.’ With every carefully crafted line, Codjoe challenges conventions, disrupts expectations, and expands the boundaries of poetic expression.”
CYRÉE JARELLE JOHNSON’s Watchnight (Nightboat Books, 2024) has won the JAMES LAUGHLIN AWARD, which is given to recognize and support a second book of poetry forthcoming in the next calendar year. Endowed 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 and a one-week residency at the Betsy Hotel in Miami.
Johnson is a poet from Piscataway, New Jersey. He is the author of Slingshot (Nightboat Books, 2019), winner of a Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry. Johnson was awarded a Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation and served as the inaugural Poet-in-Residence at the Brooklyn Public Library. He is a 2023 National Endowment of the Arts Creative Writing Fellow.
Judges Leila Chatti, John Murillo, and Sam Sax on Johnson’s manuscript: “Cyrée Jarelle Johnson’s second collection Watchnight is a major accomplishment of form and imagination. The poems in this book traverse the space between the confessional, the historical, the mythopoetic, and the speculative, guiding readers through all the rich particulars that make up the material of a life. Here is a poet firmly rooted in, but never tied down by, tradition. A poet in dialogue with those who have come before, but who brings to the conversation what is all too rare these days: something poignant and new to say.”
MARGARITA PINTADO BURGOS (author) and ALEJANDRA QUINTANA AROCHO (translator) have won the AMBROGGIO PRIZE for Ojo en Celo / Eye in Heat, given for a book-length manuscript of poems originally written in Spanish accompanied by an English translation. The winners receive $1,000 and publication by the University of Arizona Press.
Born in Puerto Rico, Margarita Pintado Burgos is the author of Ficción de venado (La Secta de los Perros, 2012), among other works. In 2022, she was awarded the Letras Boricuas Fellowship from the Mellon Foundation, which seeks to promote and elevate the voices of emerging and established Puerto Rican writers. Pintado holds a PhD in Spanish from Emory University and is a professor of language and literature at Point Loma Nazarene University.
Alejandra Quintana Arocho is a Puerto Rican writer and literary translator. She holds a BA in comparative literature and society from Columbia University and will pursue graduate studies at the University of Oxford as a Clarendon Scholar in 2023 and doctoral studies at Columbia in 2024. Her publications include a centennial bilingual edition of Gabriela Mistral’s first book of poems, Desolación (Sundial House, 2023).
Judge Achy Obejas’ citation states: “The phrase ‘eye in heat’ can have a few different meanings. It can refer to a state of intense sexual desire, but it can also refer to a heightened awareness and excitement. Here, the phrase is used to describe the speaker’s state of mind as they try to make sense of the world around them. The speaker is both attracted to and repelled by the world. The poems here capture the poet’s intense desire to find meaning in this paradox. This can be a dangerous state, as they are trying to make sense of something both beautiful and terrifying. Ojo en Celo / Eye in Heat captures the poet’s vulnerability and their willingness to take risks in order to find a place in the world.”
STEPHANIE MCCARTER’s translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses (Penguin Classics, 2022) has won the HAROLD MORTON LANDON TRANSLATION AWARD. This $1,000 prize recognizes a published translation of poetry from any language into English that demonstrates literary excellence.
Stephanie McCarter is a scholar, writer, and translator. Her books include a verse translation of Horace’s Epodes, Odes, and Carmen Saeculare (University of Oklahoma Press, 2020). She is a professor of classics at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee.
Praising McCarter’s achievement, Judge Anna Deeny Morales writes: “In the introduction to Stephanie McCarter’s magnificent translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, she writes that she has sought to produce a ‘poetic rendering […] in a modern idiom accessible to students, general readers, and specialists alike.’ What is evident in her use of the term ‘modern idiom’ is that for McCarter, modern is multiple and multitemporal, as she makes use of, for example, anachronisms as well as contemporary words. McCarter also yields a new reading of this classic by illuminating, as she explains, Ovid’s sensibilities regarding gender and gendered violence. But the true brilliance, that is, the true reading, the accessibility, of McCarter’s tapestry lies in her use of poetic form. McCarter opens her translation with a pounding iambic pentameter, as if drums are beating to announce ‘The Creation of the World,’ but also that Ovid’s creation is now in someone else’s hands: the translator’s. McCarter’s rhythmic force then transfigures in textured waves of ever-shifting accentuations throughout the 608-page volume only to conclude with the original structured rhythm. Throughout, McCarter produces gorgeous basso continuo undertones juxtaposed against sharp and high-pitched rhymes. Such formal elements of the translation ultimately represent McCarter’s interpretation of Metamorphoses and the art of translation itself—that humble human craft that has the capacity to stand against and despite the will of gods, power, and time. McCarter has produced her own masterpiece that ‘Jove’s wrath cannot / destroy, nor flame, nor steel, nor gnawing time.’ ‘My name,’ she writes, ‘can’t be erased.’”
MOIRA EGAN’s translation of Letters of Black Fire by Italian poet Giorgiomaria Cornelio has won the RAIZISS/DE PALCHI FELLOWSHIP. This $25,000 prize is given for the translation into English of a significant work of modern Italian poetry. The fellowship enables an American translator to travel, study, or otherwise advance a significant work-in-progress. The winning translator also receives a five-week residency at the American Academy in Rome.
Moira Egan has published nine books of poetry (five in the U.S., four in Italy). Her most recent volume is the bilingual Amore e morte (Edizioni Tlon, 2022). Her poems and essays have been published in journals and anthologies on four continents. She has had writing fellowships at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (as a Mid Atlantic Arts Creative Fellow and as a CSG Fellow), the St. James Cavalier Centre for Creativity (Spazju Kreattiv), the Civitella Ranieri Center, the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center, and the James Merrill House. She teaches creative writing at St. Stephen’s School and John Cabot University.
Judges Jennifer Scappettone, Graziella Sidoli, and John Taylor on Egan’s translation: “Moira Egan offers us Giorgiomaria Cornelio’s enigmatic, experimental, and truly contemporary voice in the present Italian poetic landscape with an English that fully matches his linguistic and challenging power. With equal beauty and ferocity, each one of her renditions is an astonishing new poem while remaining faithful to the original, which is the key to the exacting task of the translator.”
About the Academy of American Poets
Founded in 1934, the Academy of American Poets is the United States’ leading champion of poets and poetry with supporters in all fifty states and beyond. The organization annually awards $1.3+ million to more than two hundred poets at various stages of their careers through its prize program, which includes the Poet Laureate Fellowships. The organization also produces Poets.org, the world’s largest publicly funded website for poets and poetry; established and organizes National Poetry Month each April; publishes the popular Poem-a-Day series and American Poets magazine; provides free resources to K–12 educators, including the award-winning Teach This Poem series; hosts an annual series of poetry readings and special events; and coordinates a national Poetry Coalition that promotes the value poets bring to our culture. To learn more about the Academy of American Poets, including its staff, its Board of Directors, and its Board of Chancellors, visit: https://poets.org.