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


New York, April 24—The Academy of American Poets announced today that Matt Rasmussen has been selected by the poet Jane Hirshfield as the recipient of the 2012 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, 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.

Matt Rasmussen received the Award for his book-length collection of poems Black Aperture, which will be published in the spring of 2013 by Louisiana State University Press. He was born in International Falls, Minnesota, and is a founding co-editor of Birds, LLC, a small, independent poetry press. A former Peace Corps Volunteer, currently he teaches literature and creative writing at Gustavus Adolphus College and lives in Robbinsdale, MN.

About Rasmussen's book, Jane Hirshfield writes:

Black Aperture addresses, with meticulous balance, a single event from multiple directions. Autobiographical, speculative, imaginal, at times bitterly comic, often lyrically surreal, Matt Rasmussen's transformative poems look outward—they are built on the observable leaf, field, hand, bird, and act. But this book's central task is the alchemizing of experience by language: the subject here is the suicide of a brother. What cannot be altered remains; yet by changing saying, seeing is also made wider, more openly porous. The liberations of tongue, word, and conception held in these poems restore the possibility-sense that's as essential to us as oxygen, when a person stands in the chambers of unacceptable loss.

Matt Rasmussen is the recipient of grants and residencies from the Bush Foundation, The Corporation of Yaddo, and The Jerome Foundation. His chapbook, Fingergun, was published in 2006 by Kitchen Press. A 2012 McKnight Artist Fellow, his poems have appeared in Gulf Coast, Mid-American Review, New York Quarterly, and other journals.

Jane Hirshfield's latest collection of poems is Come, Thief (Knopf, 2011). She is also the author of Given Sugar, Given Salt (Harper Perennial, 2001), which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, The Lives of the Heart (Harper Perennial, 1997), and Of Gravity & Angels (Wesleyan, 1988). Hirshfield is a current Academy of American Poets chancellor and has received the Northern California Book Award, fellowships from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundations, and was awarded the 70th Academy of American Poets Fellowship for distinguished poetic achievement. She has been a resident of the San Francisco Bay Area since 1974.

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,, 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; 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 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