New York, May 8—The Academy of American Poets is pleased to announce that Jonathan Thirkield has been selected as the recipient of the 2008 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; it brings book publication to an American poet who has never before published a book of poetry and distributes the book to members of the Academy. The Whitman Award also carries a $5,000 cash prize and a one-month residency at the Vermont Studio Center.

Jonathan Thirkield received the award for his book-length collection of poems The Waker's Corridor, which will be published in the spring of 2009 by Louisiana State University Press. The winning manuscript was chosen by the poet Linda Bierds from over 1,000 entries. The finalist for the award was Jerry Michael Martinez for his book Heredities.

Linda Bierds wrote about Thirkield’s book:

So many paths shape The Waker's Corridor: walkways through childhood and grief, through illusion and reality, walkways through the nuanced layers of consciousness. Drawing from sources as diverse as the York Cycle of 'Mystery Plays' and twentieth-century German design, Jonathan Thirkield has crafted a luminous book, one that marks the emergence of a major new voice in American poetry.

Jonathan Thirkield was born and raised in New York City. He graduated from Wesleyan University and received his M.F.A from the University of Iowa’s Writers' Workshop where he was a Truman Capote Fellow. His poems have appeared in WebConjunctions, New American Writing, Colorado Review, 1913: a journal of forms, American Letters & Commentary, Verse, and other journals.

Linda Bierds was raised in Anchorage, Alaska, and attended the University of Washington. Her numerous books of poetry include First Hand (Putnam, 2005), The Seconds (2001), The Profile Makers (1997), The Ghost Trio (1994), which was named a Notable Book Selection by the American Library Association, Heart and Perimeter (1991), and The Stillness, the Dancing (1988). Bierds has received several Pushcart Prizes, as well as grants and awards from the Seattle Arts Commission, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ingram Merrill Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Poetry Society of America, and the MacArthur Foundation, which praised her in 1998 as "a poet whose attention to historical detail and to narratives of lyric description sets her apart from the prevailing contemporary styles." She has taught English and writing at the University of Washington since 1989, and lives on Bainbridge Island in Washington.

The Walt Whitman Award, established in 1975, makes possible the publication of a poet's first full-length collection. This annual competition is 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 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.