February 23, 2018

Since 1963, the PEN Awards have honored the most outstanding voices in literature across a diverse range of genres, including fiction, poetry, science writing, essays, sports writing, biography, children’s literature, and drama. With the help of partners, PEN America confers over 20 distinct awards, fellowships, grants, and prizes each year, awarding nearly $315,000 to writers and translators.

This week, PEN named the 2018 PEN America Literary Awards winners as well as the 2018 PEN America Lifetime and Career Achievement Honorees. Among the former is poet Layli Long Soldier’s debut collection, Whereas. Among the latter is poet Kamau Braithwaite for his body of work including Elegguas, Born to Slow Horses, and Ancestors.

Congratulations to these two important voices in poetry.



January 16, 2018

The Poetry Department would like to join the chorus of congratulations for Ocean Vuong, who has been awarded the T.S. Eliot Prize for his debut collection, Night Sky with Exit Wounds (Copper Canyon Press). Read the story in The Guardian.

good news

December 31, 2017

In a year-end/year-start bit of good news, the Foundation for Contemporary Arts has announced a $1 million endowment gift from artists Ellsworth Kelly (1923-2015) and Jack Shear to establish an annual $40,000 C.D. WRIGHT AWARD FOR POETRY. The award will be made each year to a poet over the age of 50 whose work exemplifies Wright’s vibrant lyricism, seriousness, and striking originality. It will be one of the few, significant unrestricted poetry awards in the country. The inaugural C.D. Wright Award will be made to experimental poet LISA ROBERTSON.

Confidential nominations are accepted from invited artists and arts professionals once a year. In the field of poetry, two established poets, poetry editors, or poetry professors are asked to review nomination materials for each poetry nominee, confer, and make a joint recommendation to the Selection Committee, which is comprised of artists, arts professionals, and FCA’s Board of Directors.

C.D. Wright was herself a recipient of a Grants to Artists award in 1999. She passed away in 2016 at the age of 67. Wright was a selfless champion of the poetry community. She was a tireless teacher and supporter of young poets as the I.J. Kapstein Professor of Literary Arts at Brown University from 1983 until her death. With her husband, the poet Forrest Gander, she founded and ran Lost Roads Publishers, a book press of some 45 titles. In addition to celebrating the spirit of her own work, the C.D. Wright Award for Poetry will also continue Wright’s deep commitment to supporting her peers.

Happy New Year!


The Washington Center for the Book (a partnership of The Seattle Public Library and Washington State Library) has announced the finalists for the 2017 Washington State Book Awards. Categories include poetry, fiction, biography/memoir, history/general nonfiction, and several categories of youth books. See the complete list of finalists in The Seattle Times and mark your calendar for the awards celebration on Saturday, October 14, 2017, at the Seattle Public Library. Congratulations to Washington’s prolific writers.


Whatcom wins!

June 16, 2017

When you think “library” the next word in your mind probably isn’t “marketing.” But this week a connection was made as the Whatcom County Library System (WCLS) announced that it has won three national library marketing awards, including the very prestigious John Cotton Dana award, which comes with a $10,000 prize.

As the WCLS website explains,

WCLS worked with Red Rokk, a Bellingham-based marketing agency, to launch the “My Modern Library” campaign in the spring of 2016; the digital marketing campaign focused on promoting the library’s digital services in a fun and positive way. At the end of the 9-month campaign, WCLS more than doubled their annual goals for circulation and cardholders, increased digital circulation by 86.5%, and broke the record for most card sign-ups ever in one month by 26%.

We love our libraries and congratulate WCLS and Red Rokk on their big wins… and also thank them for their support of poetry in Whatcom County!

. . . . .
Pictured from left to right: Sally Crouse, Christina Nelson, WCLS Executive Director Christine Perkins, Sherri Huleatt, Megan Cook, Lizz Roberts, Sarah Hirsch, Red Rokk CEO Tyler Byrd, and Steven Aldous. Photo Credit: 1123 Productions


the awards biz

June 24, 2016

PNBAEver wonder what it’s like to be on a book awards committee? We don’t have all the secrets, but there are some hints regarding the Pacific Northwest Book Awards scattered around the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association (PNBA) website.

According to the Awards Committee Guidelines, “The typical PNBA Awards Committee member spends about 20 hours each year on PNBA conferences and correspondence, and an enormous amount of time reviewing the 300+ books that might be nominated.” Committee members are employees of current PNBA member bookstores.

If you go to the Pacific Northwest Book Awards page and click on 2017 Nominees, you can see a list of titles that have been nominated and are being considered. But that’s not the complete list because nominations remain open until September 30, 2016. The committee typically picks six books in October and announces the awards in January.

Somebody’s reading a lot of books this summer.


the winner

April 19, 2016

Balakian - Ozone Journal

Congratulations to poet Peter Balakian, the winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Cited as “a distinguished volume of original verse by an American author,” his book Ozone Journal (University of Chicago Press) earned these words of praise from Keith Jones in Consequence Magazine, “These are poems of rapturous diction…” Another book for your list.

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