Sunday 16th of May 2021

of literary prizes...


Some days we think of poetry as a dead antelope and poets as the wolves, hyenas, and coyotes who come to fight over the innards, teeth bared, growling. 

Some days we think of poetry as the center panel of Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights with poets as the naked libertines in small groups that notice only each other, some immersed in a pool balancing apples on their heads, some floating together in a bubble, others riding on the backs of birds. 


For most of the twentieth century, the prize’s definitions of literary excellence included only white writers. This history is probably one of the reasons why such awards are still perceived as overwhelmingly white, although the racial diversity of prizewinners more or less begins to echo the racial demographics of the US as a whole in the 2000s (we do not see this as a baseline for what should be called excellent, but rather a descriptive metric). The reasons for this change are large, complicated, and interconnected, reflecting the shifting cultural terrain of the late 1960s and culminating in the so-called “culture wars” of the late 1980s. Literature played a major role in institutional debates about multiculturalism and this attention dramatically changed the canon of what is thought of as excellent American literature. At the same time, racially attentive literary institutions such as the Dark Room Collective, VONA, the Asian American Writers’ Workshop, Cave Canem, and Kundiman began to offer supportive programming and network-building opportunities for writers who identified as other than white.

Despite changing the demographics of the prize, these larger shifts have not changed the insular nature of prestige networks. The Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellows offer a case study in this regard. The Fellows are a striking cross-section of a new literary establishment which in almost every way diverges from the old guard of poetry: they are young, racially diverse, often queer, and many emerge from spoken word scenes. But in other ways, the narrow scope of the prize remains the same. Half attended Stanford, New York University, University of Iowa, University of Houston, or University of Texas, Austin. Three quarters of the fellows have an MFA. Phillip B. Williams recently published a “Letter of Apology from a Ruth Lilly Fellow.” As Williams’s letter points out, there is no escaping “the nepotism of the award,” or the fact that everyone who won it “seemed to be close friends.”16 It is difficult not to notice, for instance, that all but one member of the Dark Noise Collective has won a Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship in recent years.

So what is to be done? We are not purists who want to do away with prizes entirely, especially not at the moment they are finally being distributed to a more racially diverse group of writers. But nor do we wish to agitate for a further reformed prize. If there is anything our research has shown us, it is that even as they do their best to course correct towards transparency, equity, and inclusion, prizes will still be prizes. They reflect power imbalances that are larger than the genre of poetry. Much of the cultural production recognized as establishment within the US is produced by those with ties to elite schools and the economy of favors that comes with those degrees. It seems unlikely that a series of rules could ever really combat these conditions (barring a lottery, which would negate the whole premise of a prize). One possibility begins with adjusting one’s perspective and understanding that the prize does not reflect unbiased excellence, but rather exchanges of honors among a small cadre of poets. If from there we accept that poetry is made up of various cadres, and the prize cannot possibly be ecumenical, we could think about how to diversify the prize winnings among these cadres while also reducing the inevitable biases when judges and winners come from the same cadre. This might mean going further than the Jorie Graham rule and insisting that wolves could only ever judge prizes given to libertines who balance apples on their heads who could in turn distribute spoils exclusively to coyotes who could only ever decide which riders of birds should receive that year’s purse for riders of birds. This would be complicated, of course: some poets are both hyena and libertine; some are wolves immersed in pools of apples that do not balance on anyone’s head; others are birds pecking at the eyes of coyotes who float by, serene, embracing antelopes in bubbles. The other option is to accept that this economy of favors cannot be undone without a dramatic rethinking of how poets are supported, valued, and ultimately understood to be excellent, which would require creating new metrics for evaluation. We are not sure what these would be. But we do think that this would perhaps be an opportunity to reconnect us to what matters about poetry: its atypical thinking, its counter-institutional possibilities, its ability to stir emotions, its beauty and its grace too.


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of art prizes...


of "music" prize sensations...

The red carpet of the highly-anticipated American Music Awards (AMAs) glittered bright as several stars from the music industry arrived at the Microsoft Theatre in Los Angeles on Sunday night. Justin Bieber, Shawn Mendes, The Weeknd, and Meghan Thee Stallion were among other music sensations whose presence marked the AMAs. 

While the American Music Awards was filled with fun moments and surprises, pop princess Taylor Swift, who won the "Artist of the Year" for the sixth time emerged as one of the most talked about highlights from the star-studded show.

This year, Swift bagged the "Artist of the Year" award for the third consecutive time.

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Read from top.


I am getting old... I don't know any of these geniuses by their music. I only "met them" on the internet for showing their butts or being Christians (reformed idiots chapter)... I will need someone to hold my hand as we wade through the notes and lyrics of the pedescrafted pulverised juice.