Tuesday, December 1, 2015

African American poets and the Whiting Writers' Award

Tyehimba Jess was a Whiting Award recipient in 2006

The Whiting Writers' Award, presented since 1985, now provides winners with $50,000. Not bad.  The award has gone to 300 writers, 92 of whom were poets. Of that 92, 15 were black poets.   

My notion that awards beget awards is also in effect here. Nearly every recipient was later or previously the recipient of another major award (I'll document some of that in a future entry). 

Similar to the trends that we've seen with poet finalists for the National Book Award and poet recipients of the Guggenheim Fellowship, the rate of black winners increased over the years. 12 of the 15 African American poet recipients of the Whiting received the award between 2000 and 2015.

The Whiting Foundation provides, as its web site states, "early support for scholars and writers." Everyone discusses the "time to write" as one major benefit. But I'd add that the award or any prestigious award also counts as capital for recipients to spend toward gaining employment or a promotion.   

Whiting Writers' Award recipients 
1991: Thylias Moss
1993: Nathaniel Mackey
1999: Terrance Hayes
2000: Claude Wilkinson
2004: A. Van Jordan
2005: Thomas Sayers Ellis 
2005: Tracy K. Smith
2005: John Keene
2006: Tyehimba Jess 
2009: Jericho Brown
2011: Shane McCrae
2013: Ishion Hutchinson
2013: Rowan Ricardo Phillips
2015: Aracelis Girmay
2015: Roger Reeves

Related:
A Notebook on prizes, awards & fellowships

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