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Finalist One Year, Winner the Next

Read more from G&A: The Contest Blog

A blog from: Poets & Writers Magazine

Posted by Prize Reporter on 5.06.09

In what the Academy of American Poets calls an "unprecedented concurrence," the sole finalist for the 2008 Walt Whitman Award, J. Michael Martinez, was just named winner of the 2009 award. Judge Juan Felipe Herrera chose Martinez's collection, Heredities, from nearly a thousand anonymous entries. It will be published in the spring of 2010 by Louisiana State University Press. Martinez will receive five thousand dollars and a one-month residency at the Vermont Studio Center. The Whitman is given for a first book of poems.

Last year, judge Linda Bierds selected Martinez as the only finalist and named Jonathan Thirkfield the winner for The Waker's Corridor; whereas this year Herrera chose Martinez and named Keith Ekiss ("Pima Road Notebook") and Sarah Elaine Smith ("I Live in a Hut") finalists.

Which contest do you think Ekiss and Smith will be sending their manuscripts to next year?

Martinez, who was born and raised in Greeley, Colorado, received an MFA from George Mason University. His poems have appeared in New American Writing, Five Fingers Review, the Colorado Review, and Crab Orchard Review, among others. He lives in Boulder and teaches literature, critical theory, and cultural studies at the University of Northern Colorado.

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