The Poetry Foundation announced yesterday the winner of its 2012 Emily Dickinson First Book Award, given occasionally for a poetry collection by a writer over forty. Maryland writer Hailey Leithauser, born in 1954, received this year's honor for her collection, Swoop, which comes with a ten-thousand-dollar prize and publication of the book by award-winning indie Graywolf Press next year.
Leithauser, who returned to poetry in 2000 after taking decades off from writing post-college, has seen her poetry published in Antioch Review, Gettysburg Review, Poetry, and Sou'wester, as well as in The Best American Poetry 2010. In 2004 she won a "Discovery"/The Nation Award (now the "Discovery"/Boston Review Award). The poet, who studied English as an undergraduate and now holds a master's of library and information science, has worked most recently as senior reference librarian at the Department of Energy in Washington, D.C., though she's also taken turns as a salad chef, purveyor of gourmet foods, real estate office manager, copy editor, phone surveyor, and bookstore clerk.
“Leithauser is a risk-taker," says Graywolf editor Jeff Shotts. "She is innovative—with spirited titles and musical outbursts—but also nods to poetic tradition with rhyming sonnets and other lyric techniques...I am engaged, throughout, and admire her wide-ranging talent.”
The Poetry Foundation will honor Leithauser along with 2012 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize winner W. S. Di Piero at a ceremony in Chicago on June 11.