Today in our poetry news round-up we look at the winners of this year’s Whiting Award and the Walt Whitman Award. We also bring you the #comfortandhope poetry readings from BBC Radio Four.
Whiting Award Prize 2020
Jake Skeets, a Navajo poet has been named as one of this year’s winners of the Whiting Award. The Giles Whiting Foundation has named 10 writers this year who have received the honour.
This is not Skeets’ first prize. Last year he was the winner of 2018’s Discovery / Boston Review Contest. He has also been a nominee for one of the sought-after literary prizes in America – the Pushcart Prize
Skeets, who is from New Mexico, takes his inspiration for his poetry from his own personal experiences with a heavy focus on the issues and challenges facing Native Americans. He says that although poetry isn’t a bestseller he finds writing poetry rather affirming. He is hoping that he will find plenty more to write about in the future. He focuses on what he believes are the stereotypical depictions of Gallup in his book
2020 Walt Whitman Award
An announcement has been made by the Academy of American Poets that this year’s recipient of the Walt Whitman Award if Threa Almontaser. The winner was selected by Harryette Mullen.
The Walt Whitman Award is the most valuable prize awarded to a first book by a poet in America. The winning poetry collection “The Wild Fox of Yemen” will be published in April next year as part of the prize.
Almotaser will also receive an all-expenses-paid residency for six weeks in Umbria, Italy at the Civitella Ranieri Center and a sum of $5000. Thousands of copies of her book will be purchased by the committee of the Academy of American Poets to be distributed to their members. This is likely to make the book on of the most widely distributed books of poetry for the year.
The winning book from the 2019 Walt Whitman Award, “The More Extravagant Feast” is due to be published this month.
The award was established in 1975 with the goal of encouraging the work of up and coming poets.
During the Coronavirus pandemic, BBC Radio 4 is running a special feature on their Today programme. Listeners will be able to tune in to hear some of their best-known voices reading a poem that has brought them hope and comfort in a dark time. The theme of the segment is #comfortandhope.
On Monday Fergal Keane recited from Benedictus: Book of Blessings which was written by John O’Donohue, the verse that helped him when he was struggling with PTSD.
Tuesday saw Allan Little reading Sonnet 116 by William Shakespeare, which helped to get him through the 9 weeks that his wife spent in ICU following a very serious car accident.