New York, NY (September 19, 2022)—The Academy of American Poets is pleased to announce the winners of the 2022 American Poets Prizes, which are among the most valuable and venerable poetry prizes in the United States. This year the organization has awarded more funds to poets than any other organization globally, giving a total of $1,288,000 to poets at various stages of their careers.
MARILYN NELSON 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 include Toi Derricotte, Nikky Finney, and Rita Dove.
Marilyn Nelson is the author of My Seneca Village (namelos, 2015); The Fields of Praise: New and Selected Poems (Louisiana State University Press, 1997), which was a finalist for the 1997 National Book Award; and The Homeplace (Louisiana State University Press, 1990), which won the 1992 Anisfield-Wolf Award. Her honors include the 2019 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, a Frost Medal from the Poetry Society of America, a Fulbright Teaching Fellowship, two Pushcart Prizes, and the 1990 Connecticut Arts Award, as well as fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. From 2001–2006, she served as the poet laureate of Connecticut. Nelson has also published collections of verse for children and young adults, including Lubaya’s Quiet Roar (Penguin Random House, 2020) and The Baobab Room (Homebound Publications, 2019). A former Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, Nelson has taught at the University of Connecticut, Storrs, since 1978, where she is a professor emerita of English.
About Nelson, current Academy of American Poets Chancellor Kevin Young said, “For decades Marilyn Nelson has written a poetry that is insightful, moving, and clear, brimming with history but aimed at the future. That she has often done so for younger readers with all of the same sophistication and seriousness that marks her other verse only makes her achievement all the more remarkable. She has also embodied a tradition of welcoming, gathering, and mentoring other poets, opening up her practice and her spaces, such as Soul Mountain, to support their work. The Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets is the culmination of a career that has garnered praise and prizes from many quarters, and for poetry of all kinds. Whether writing of her father’s generation of Tuskegee Airmen, in the voices of the enslaved speaking of freedom, or about the woman in the mirror, Nelson’s work is necessary and humane, and has led the way on the page and in the world.”
JERICHO BROWN has received the ACADEMY OF AMERICAN POETS FELLOWSHIP. Established in 1936 and 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 summer home in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Fellows are nominated and elected by a majority vote of the Academy’s Board of Chancellors. Past recipients include Gwendolyn Brooks, Robert Frost, and Tracy K. Smith.
Jericho Brown is the author of The Tradition (Copper Canyon Press, 2019), winner of the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and a finalist for the 2019 National Book Award in Poetry; The New Testament (Copper Canyon Press, 2014), which received the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award; and Please (New Issues, 2008), which received the 2009 American Book Award. He is the recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award and has received fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Krakow Poetry Seminar in Poland, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University. Brown is currently an associate professor of English and creative writing, director of the creative writing Program at Emory University in Atlanta and poetry editor at The Believer.
About Brown, current Academy of American Poets Chancellor Ellen Bass said: “When Whitman wrote ‘I contain multitudes,’ he could have been describing Jericho Brown, a poet whose work is rich with beauty and eros, evil and terror. With an expansive vision, he courageously interrogates our cultural crisis and bears witness: particularly to the history of violence experienced by Black Americans, from the domestic and sexual to systemic and institutional. In his introduction to the new edition of Claude McKay’s Harlem Shadows, Brown says, ‘All art is the product of the entirety of an artist’s life.’ And Brown brings the complexity of all his identities to his work: Black, Southern, queer, HIV-positive. His poetry evokes the sacred and the profane with lyrical intensity and with a reverence that grows naturally from his upbringing in the church. At times his images echo Biblical symbolism, transforming a father into the Father, the sea into a life challenge, and brother into an allegory of brotherhood. In his extraordinary creation of the duplex, a combination of the sonnet, the ghazal, and the blues, he demonstrates his masterful skill and gives us a new form, one that has already been widely imitated. A poem titled ‘Duplex’ begins, ‘A poem is a gesture toward home. / It makes dark demands I call my own.’ While his poems face and re-create these ‘dark demands,’ he always reaches for beauty and joy. As Yusef Komunyakaa said of his work, it is ‘lit by signifying, an anthem of survival and jubilation.’ We are fortunate to have Jericho Brown as a brilliant poet, superb teacher, and generous ambassador. He invites readers and students into his passion for the craft and content, and does so with his signature style: ‘I’m more than a conqueror, bigger / Than bravery. I don’t march. I’m the one who leaps.’
MAI DER VANG’s Yellow Rain (Graywolf Press, 2021) 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 Charles Wright, Adrienne Rich, and Kevin Young. The judges were Sawako Nakayasu, Matthew Shenoda, and Danez Smith.
Mai Der Vang is the daughter of Hmong refugees who resettled in this country in the early 1980s, following the United States’ withdrawal from its Secret War in Laos. She is the author of Yellow Rain: Poems (Graywolf Press, 2021), which won the 2022 American Book Award and was shortlisted for multiple awards, including the 2022 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry and the 2021 Los Angeles Times Book Prize in Poetry. Her debut poetry collection, Afterland (Graywolf Press, 2017), was selected by Carolyn Forché as the winner of the 2016 Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets. Vang’s poems have appeared in Poetry, Tin House, The American Poetry Review, and elsewhere. Her essays have been published in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and espnW, among other outlets. She co-edited, with the Hmong American Writers’ Circle, How Do I Begin: A Hmong American Literary Anthology (Heyday, 2011). A Kundiman fellow, Vang is the recipient of a Lannan Literary Fellowship. She currently teaches in the MFA Program in creative writing at California State University, Fresno.
About Vang’s winning book, judges Sawako Nakayasu, Matthew Shenoda, and Danez Smith said: “In 1964, James Baldwin said, ‘We are unbelievably ignorant concerning what goes on in our country—to say nothing of what goes on in the rest of the world—and appear to have become too timid to question what we are told. Our failure to trust one another deeply enough to be able to talk to one another has become so great that people with [...] questions in their hearts do not speak them.’ Mai Der Vang has chosen to speak the questions in her heart; part reportage, part lyrical rumination with an incisive mix of documentary poetics, Mai Der Vang’s Yellow Rain is a testament to the importance of poetry as a probing medium to help untangle, unearth, and make meaning of the inter-generational memories and experiences that have haunted and shaped the Hmong community. In Vang’s work we are thrust into a contemporary epic where ‘every footprint [is] incarnate’ and through that journey are slowly able to piece together a semblance of what the actions of the powerful few do to the many. Yellow Rain stands as a formally daring and visually rapturous witness to the importance of poetry as an art form that can bring us into a deeper understanding of the people who occupy this place called America and the deeply layered and complex histories from which they emanate.”
ANNELYSE GELMAN’s book Vexations (University of Chicago Press, 2023) 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 and a one-week residency at the Betsy Hotel in Miami; the Academy of American Poets also distributes copies of the book to thousands of its members. Past recipients include Donald Hall, Sharon Olds, and Vijay Seshadri. The judges were Aracelis Girmay and Solmaz Sharif.
Annelyse Gelman is the author of the poetry collection Everyone I Love Is a Stranger to Someone (Write Bloody, 2014), the artist’s monograph POOL (NECK Press, 2020), and the EP About Repulsion (Fonograf Editions, 2019). She also founded and directs Midst, a digital publishing platform focused on capturing, sharing, and exploring the drafting and editing processes of contemporary poets.
About Gelman’s winning book, judges Aracelis Girmay and Solmaz Sharif said: “Vexations is a brilliant, dizzying, necessarily unnerving take on the project of the state and the varied estrangements on which it feeds. Demanding and speculative, Annelyse Gelman’s book-length poem names the absurd conditions out of which we (readers), and the text itself, emerge, awakening a rage. The world Gelman creates is a strange, slant rendering of our own, delivering shock after shock of recognition in our reading of its intimacies—clarity, threat, pleasure, dread. Part mother’s account of her life with her young daughter, part encounter with Erik Satie’s nineteenth-century score of the same name, Vexations is a poem, a performance, and a score of endurance. It is a book radiant and terrifying with our time. It is afire.”
ELIZABETH TORRES’s La Lotería: Sorteo Nocturno / The Lottery: Nocturnal Sweepstakes (University of Arizona Press, 2023) has won the AMBROGGIO PRIZE, which is a $1,000 publication prize given for a book-length poetry manuscript originally written in Spanish and with an English translation. The winning manuscript is published by the University of Arizona Press, a nationally recognized publisher of award-winning works of emerging and established voices in Latinx and Indigenous literature, as well as groundbreaking scholarship in Latinx and Indigenous studies. Established in 2017, the Ambroggio Prize is the only annual award of its kind in the United States that honors American poets whose first language is Spanish. This year’s judge was Raina J. León.
Elizabeth Torres (Madam Neverstop) is a poet, literary translator, and multimedia artist. She is the author of over twenty books of poetry published in Spanish, English, Danish, and German. Her poetry has also been translated into Ukrainian, Serbian, Finnish, and Swedish. She is the founder and director of the arts and culture quarterly publication Red Door Magazine, host of the Red Transmissions Podcast, initiator of the international audio collection Poetic Phonotheque, and coordinator in the Nordic region of the Red Thread network. Her work intertwines poetry, visuals, and soundscapes with language and performance, focusing on the subjects of identity, migration, grief, resilience, environmental awareness, and the representation of neurodivergent, BIPOC, and LGBTQI+ communities. She now resides in Copenhagen, where she is pursuing an MFA in performing arts with a writing specialization at the Danish National School of Performing Arts.
About Torres’s winning manuscript, judge Raina J. León said: “In every beginning, there is a river that entices with its generational wisdom, its own invocations, its own knowledge that what will come is what has been. La Lotería: Sorteo Nocturno alchemizes lotería symbology as vessels for myth, migration, and becoming. What belongs to centuries of play and divination is also seen anew in this text; we learn how even a sound can cause a room to wither. Poems arise from archetypical cards blazon out with new relevance; ‘The Milk’ and ‘The Customs Office’ have as much to say as ‘The Wall,’ as much about chaos and loss as they offer moments when the human experience, its fullness, becomes universal. ‘But how do I tell the builders / I don’t want grey cement / attaching me to the ground?’ This book reminds us that the drums of war continue to beat their fear and devastation into one’s bones even after the body has risen to the sky, leaving runways of scattered articles of life. What we leave behind in hopes of peace! Injustice waits when you land and caws your name in front of its crow ‘collection of panicked deer eyes.’ The game plays on and these poems invite a gamble: read and you just might change your life. The river will be there, at the beginning, and it may become the rain within you.”
ADRIANA X. JACOBS’s translation of Vaan Nguyen’s The Truffle Eye (Zephyr Press, 2021) 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 David Shook.
Adriana X. Jacobs is a poet, scholar, and translator based in Oxford and New York City. Her full-length translations of Hebrew poetry include Vaan Nguyen’s The Truffle Eye (Zephyr Press) and Merav Givoni Hrushovski’s End— (Carrion Bloom Books, 2022). She is the recipient of a 2015 PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant and a 2020 NEA Translation Fellowship. Jacobs is the author of Strange Cocktail: Translation and the Making of Modern Hebrew Poetry (University of Michigan Press, 2018), which was a finalist for the 2019 Jordan Schnitzer Book Award, and the co-editor, with Claire Williams, of After Clarice: Reading Lispector’s Legacy in the Twenty-First Century (Legenda, 2022). She is an associate professor at the University of Oxford.
Judge David Shook wrote of Jacobs’s winning translation: “In her translation of Vaan Nguyen’s The Truffle Eye, Adriana X. Jacobs captures the full cultural and linguistic complexity of the poet’s own conflicted relationship to the Hebrew language and its hegemony in Israeli society and literature. In her translator’s note, Jacobs describes the process of ‘unsettling [her] own English’ in an effort to reflect Nguyen’s subversion, recontextualization, and innovation of the Hebrew, a process that involved her consideration of everything from the translation of punctuation to replicating the intentional agramaticality of the original. The resulting translation, equally confident in its difficulty as in its lyricism, is proof of her success. If, as in the opening lines to The Truffle Eye, Vaan Nguyen’s speaker has ‘moved between three beds,’ Jacobs’ vibrant, thrilling rendition into English now makes that four.”
DANIELLE EMERSON has won the ALIKI PERROTI AND SETH FRANK MOST PROMISING YOUNG POET AWARD for her poem “shíma yazhí ahéheeʼ / thank you, auntie.” 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 Academy of American Poets Chancellor David St. John.
About Danielle Emerson’s poem “shíma yazhí ahéheeʼ / thank you, auntie.”, judge David St. John wrote, “In this deeply moving poem, the speaker offers an interwoven vision of daily experience coupled with intimate family details, always revealing the rich dual fabric of their world by offering images, details and phrases mirrored by both Diné (Navajo) and English. By naming the world within the echoes of two cultures, the poet enlarges our own sense of human intimacy and possibility. Reflecting too on the lineage of female figures in the poet’s family, this poem moves with an exquisite delicacy and complex music. I look forward to reading many more poems by Danielle Emerson in the future.”
In April and May, the Academy of American Poets announced that KWEKU ABIMBOLA received the FIRST BOOK AWARD for his debut collection Saltwater Demands a Psalm, which will be published by Graywolf Press in 2023. He received $5,000 and a six-week residency at the Civitella Ranieri Center in Italy. Tyehimba Jess judged the award. The Academy also announced the recipients of the 2022 Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellowships, twenty-two poets laureate who were awarded a combined total of $1,100,000 in recognition of their literary merit and to support their respective civic programs over the course of a year: Emanuelee Outspoken Bean (Houston, TX), Cyrus Cassells (Texas), Andru Defeye (Sacramento, CA), Ashanti Files (Urbana, IL), B. K. Fischer (Westchester County, NY), KaNikki Jakarta (Alexandria, VA), Kealoha (Hawaiʻi), Ashley M. Jones (Alabama), Holly Karapetkova (Arlington, VA), J. Drew Lanham (Edgefield, SC), Julia B. Levine (Davis, CA), Matt Mason (Nebraska), Airea D. Matthews (Philadelphia, PA), Ray McNiece (Cleveland Heights, OH), Huascar Medina (Kansas), Gailmarie Pahmeier (Nevada), Catherine Pierce (Mississippi), Rena Priest (Washington), Lynne Thompson (Los Angeles, CA), Emma Trelles (Santa Barbara, CA), Gwen Nell Westerman (Minnesota), and Crystal Wilkinson (Kentucky).
The Academy of American Poets sponsors more than two hundred 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 Toi Derricotte, Mark Doty, Louise Glück, Jorie Graham, Joy Harjo, Robert Hass, Li-Young Lee, Sylvia Plath, Mark Strand, and Ocean Vuong.
About the Academy of American Poets
Founded in 1934, the Academy of American Poets is the nation’s 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 and fellowship programs. 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 weekly 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.