For the eighth installment of our Winners on Winning series, we spoke with Chris Hosea, the winner of the 2013 Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets for his debut collection, Put Your Hands In. The prize, given annually to a poet who has not yet published a book, includes $5,000, publication, and a residency at the Vermont Studio Center. Hosea's winning manuscript, selected by John Ashbery, was published by Louisiana State University Press in March. Hosea received his MFA in poetry from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, and is a senior copywriter at H4B Chelsea. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
What kind of impact has winning the Whitman Award had on your career?
I'm pretty sure the Whitman Award helped me recently to land a new job, with better pay and more impressive-sounding title, in advertising. Creative distinctions, and particularly established institutional honors, are valued in such industries.
Has winning this award, or previous awards, changed the way you approach your work?
I'm certain that contest judge John Ashbery's comparison between my poems and Marcel Duchamp's Nude Descebding a Staircase, and even more Ashbery's remarks about derision and eroticism in Put Your Hands In, will affect my writing for the rest of my life.
Have you ever entered a contest that you didn't win?
I have entered hundreds of contests and spent thousands of dollars on fees. If you don't play, you can't win.
What advice would you offer to writers thinking of submitting to writing contests?
Sequencing is important. Give yourself at least a month to order and reorder the poems in your book. Also, contest screeners are often (though by no means always) young students who haven't read a lot of poetry before: so include some lyrical candy up front.
For more Winners on Winning, read the current issue of Poets & Writers Magazine, and check back next Wednesday for a new installment.
Hosea: Myles Paige