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Two Emerging Poets Win Library of Congress Fellowships

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A blog from: Poets & Writers Magazine

Posted by Prize Reporter on 1.21.10

The Library of Congress announced today that U.S. poet laureate Kay Ryan has selected two emerging poets as recipients of the thirteenth annual Witter Bynner Fellowships. Jill McDonough and Atsuro Riley will each be awarded $7,500 and will both give a reading next month in Washington, D.C.

McDonough, who hails from Boston, and Riley, who lives in the San Francisco Bay area, will each also organize readings in their respective hometowns as part of the fellowship. The two poets—both Pushcart Prize winners who have seen their work published in established journals such as Poetry and Threepenny Review—are each authors of a single collection. McDonough's debut, Habeas Corpus (Salt Publishing, 2008), is a sonnet series on the theme of real-life executions whose "histories of injectings, hangings, and burnings wind up not sensational but mysterious," Ryan says. In April, the University of Chicago Press will release Riley's first book, Romey's Order—interlocking poems evocative of the poet's South Carolina Lowcountry heritage that, according to Ryan, "play equally over the skin and the mind."

There is no application process for the fellowships, which are awarded using funds from the Witter Bynner Foundation for Poetry to support poets in their practice. Previous winners, selected each year by the current poet laureate, are:
1998 Carol Muske-Dukes and Carl Phillips
1999 David Gewanter, Heather McHugh, and Campbell McGrath
2000 Naomi Shihab Nye and Joshua Weiner (all seven chosen by Robert Pinsky)
2001 Tory Dent and Nick Flynn (chosen by Stanley Kunitz)
2002 George Bilgere and Katia Kapovich
2003 Major Jackson and Rebecca Wee (all four chosen by Billy Collins)
2004 Dana Levin and Spencer Reece (chosen by Louise Glück)
2005 Claudia Emerson and Martin Walls
2006 Joseph Stroud and Connie Wanek (all four chosen by Ted Kooser)
2007 Laurie Lamon and David Tucker (chosen by Donald Hall)
2008 Matthew Thorburn and Monica Youn (chosen by Charles Simic)
2009 Christina Davis and Mary Szybist (chosen by Kay Ryan)

For information about the free, public reading in Washington, D.C., which will take place at the library's James Madison Building at 6:45 PM on February 18, visit the Library of Congress Web site.

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