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

New York, May 5—The Academy of American Poets announced today that J. Michael Martinez has been selected as the recipient of the 2009 Walt Whitman Award. The Walt Whitman Award, given by the Academy of American Poets, is one of the most prestigious first book prizes in the country, as it publishes a first collection by an American poet who has never before published a book of poetry and distributes the book 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.

J. Michael Martinez received the Award for his book-length collection of poems, Heredities, which will be published in the spring of 2010 by Louisiana State University Press. The winning manuscript was chosen by the poet Juan Felipe Herrera from nearly 1,000 anonymous entries. In an unprecedented concurrence, the judge of the 2008 Award, Linda Bierds, selected Martinez's manuscript as last year's sole finalist. The two finalists for this year's Award were Keith Ekiss's Pima Road Notebook and Sarah Elaine Smith's I Live in a Hut.

Herrera wrote about Martinez's book:

Heredities breaks away from four decades of inquiry into cultural identity. Martinez's exhilarating descent into the unspoken – lit by metaphysical investigations, physiological charts, and meta-translations of Hernán Cortés's accounts of his conquests – gives voice to a dismembered continental body buried long ago. This body, though flayed and fractured, rises and sings. Heredities is a mind-devouring collection. This new writer on the block has created a tour-de-force!

J. Michael Martinez was born and raised in Greeley, CO. He is a graduate of the University of Northern Colorado and received an M.F.A. from George Mason University. His poems have appeared in New American Writing, Five Fingers Review, The Colorado Review, and Crab Orchard Review, among others, and he has work forthcoming in the anthology Junta: Avant-Garde Latino/a Writing. He won the 2006 Five Fingers Review Poetry Prize and is co-editor and co-founder of Breach Press. Martinez currently lives in Boulder, Colorado and teaches literature, critical theory, and cultural studies at the University of Northern Colorado.

Juan Felipe Herrera, son of California farm workers, is a poet, playwright, children's book author, and novelist. His recent books are Half of the World in Light: New and Selected Poems (University of Arizona Press), winner of the 2009 National Book Critics Circle Award and a New York Times Best Book of 2008, and 187 Reasons Mexicanos Can't Cross the Border: Undocuments 1971-2007 (City Lights), which won the 2008 Pen USA Poetry Award and the 2008 Pen/Oakland Josephine Miles National Poetry Award. Since the late sixties, Herrera has founded and developed a number of performance and theatre ensembles. During his residency at the Summer Arts Institute at Montalvo, he will write an original script on African refugees and exiles, and he plans to debut this draft with an ensemble in a new spoken-word-in-movement form. Herrera is the Tomás Rivera Endowed Chair in the Department of Creative Writing at UC-Riverside.

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 at /academy-american-poets/prizes/walt-whitman-award, 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;, the most popular site about poetry on the web; 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

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 mid-career poets, painters, sculptors, printmakers, photographers, and writers. The setting is the banks of the Gihon River in rural Johnson, Vermont, a town of 2,500 located in the heart of the northern Green Mountains. Each Studio Center Residency features abundant 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, 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 twelve writing residents.