The Academy of American Poets has announced two changes to its distinguished Walt Whitman Award, making it the most valuable first-book award for poetry in the United States. In addition to a $5,000 cash prize, the winner of the 2015 award will receive publication of his or her manuscript by Graywolf Press, and a six-week all-expenses-paid residency at the Civitella Ranieri Center in Umbria, Italy.
Established in 1975, the annual prize is given to an emerging poet who has not yet published a book. The 2015 judge will be Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Tracy K. Smith.
“The partnership with the Academy affirms Graywolf Press’s forty-year commitment to publish the work of important new poets,” said Graywolf Executive Editor Jeffrey Shotts in a press release. “It seems fitting to announce this collaboration thirty years after Graywolf published Christopher Gilbert’s Walt Whitman Award–winning Across the Mutual Landscape in 1984. We simply cannot wait to see what new marvels are ahead through the award and through our work with the Academy of American Poets."
The Civitella Ranieri Center has hosted creative writers, composers, and visual artists since 1995. Residents are provided with room, board, and studio or work space in a fifteenth-century castle in rural Umbria. “This new affiliation will add to our history of outstanding poetry Fellows,” said director Dana Prescott. “We look forward to welcoming future recipients of the Walt Whitman Award to our particularly magical corner of Italy.”
Using the online submission system, poets who have not yet published a full-length book of poetry may submit a manuscript of 48 to 100 pages with a $35 entry fee between September 1 and November 1. Visit the website for complete submission guidelines.
The Academy will also purchase copies of the winning book for distribution to five thousand of its members, and will feature the poet and his or her work in its magazine, American Poets, and on its website. The winner will also receive an all-expenses-paid trip to New York City to attend the Academy's awards ceremony.
The 2014 winner was Hannah Sanghee Park for her collection The Same-Different, which will be published by Louisiana State University Press next year.
Photo: Civitella Ranieri Center