Monday, April 20, 2015

The Spring 2015 Awards & Prizes Season

Greg Pardlo reading at his
book party in November 2014
This afternoon I learned upon signing onto Facebook that the poet Greg Pardlo received the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, for his 2014 collection Digest, published by Four Way Books! This is a marvelous selection for an incredibly talented writer, and an excellent book of poems. CONGRATULATIONS TO GREG and to his publisher! I was fortunate to attend Greg's book launch last November at Dumbo Sky in Brooklyn, and after hearing him read and purchasing a copy I pored through the smart, inventive volume on the subway-and-PATH trip home. A graduate fellow of Cave Canem, Greg's first book of poetry, Totem, was selected by Brenda Hillman for the American Poetry Review/Honickman First Book Prize, and published by Copper Canyon Press. That collection offered more than a few clear signals that he was on his distinctive, poetic way. In addition to writing poetry and criticism, Greg is a translator, and brought Pencil of Rays and Spike Mash by the Danish poet Niels Lyngsø into English. The other poetry finalists for this year's Pulitzer included the great poet Arthur Sze, for his collection Compass Rose (Copper Canyon Press), and Alan Shapiro, for his collection Reel to Reel (University of Chicago Press).

Other Pulitzer Prize winners this year include fiction writer Anthony Doerr for his novel All the Light We Cannot See (published by Scribner); playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis for his play Between Riverside and Crazy (Suzan-Lori Parks was a finalist in this category for her play Father Comes Home from the War (Parts 1, 2, 3)); David I. Kertzer for his biography The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe (Random House); reporter Elizabeth Kolbert in the general nonfiction category for her book The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History (Henry Holt); and composer Julia Wolfe in the music category for her oratorio for chorus and sextet Anthracite Fields (Red Poppy Music/G. Schirmer, Inc.). In the news category, no paper received an award for print coverage of the murders of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri or of Eric Garner in Staten Island, or any other similar state-sanctioned murders that occurred last year, nor for reportage or commentary on the subsequent protests, but the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, once part of the Pulitzer family of newspapers, did receive a Pulitzer in the Breaking News Photography category for its photojournalist coverage of the aftermath of Brown's death. Congratulations to all the finals and winners!


I don't think I posted congratulations for Claudia Rankine, who was awarded both this year's National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry, and just the other day the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, for her timely invaluable book Citizen (Graywolf Press). This collection of innovative prose and verse texts had earned an unprecedented nomination in the criticism. Other recipients of the NBCC awards included Marilynne Robinson in fiction for Lila (FSG); David Brion Davis in history for The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Emancipation (Knopf); Roz Chast in autobiography for her graphic novel Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant? (Bloomsbury); John Lahr in biography for Tennessee Williams: Pilgrimage of the Flesh (W. W. Norton & Co.); and the late Ellen Willis in criticism for The Essential Ellen Willis (University of Minnesota Press). There were three other awards presented: Military veteran Phil Klay, who had won the National Book Award for fiction last fall, received the John Leonard Prize for his collection of short stories Redeployment (Penguin Press); Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison received the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award; and Alexandra Schwartz received the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing.

At the Los Angeles Festival of Books, which took place last week, other winners of book prizes included actor LeVar Burton, who was honored with the Innovator's Award for his successful, ongoing efforts to increase reading among children; Andrew Roberts in the biography for Napoleon: A Life (Viking); Jeff Hobbs in current interest for The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League (Scribner); Siri Hustvedt in fiction for The Blazing World (Simon & Schuster); Valeria Luiselli, with the Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction, for her book Faces in the Crowd (Coffee House Press); Jaime Hernandez in the Graphic Novel/Comics category for The Love Bunglers (Fantagraphics Books); Adam Tooze in history for The Deluge: The Great War, America and the Remaking of the Global Order, 1916-1931 (Viking); Tom Bouman in the mystery/thriller category for Dry Bones in the Valley (W. W. Norton & Company); Pulitzer Prize-winner Elizabeth Kolbert in the science/technology category for The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History (Henry Holt & Co.); and Candace Fleming in the young adult category for The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia (Schwartz & Wade/Random House Children’s). Congratulations to all the finalists and winners!


This month also brought the announcement of the 2015 John Simon Guggenheim Foundation fellows. The list is always a compendium of major and emerging figures in the broad areas the foundation supports, which include creative arts, humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences. Among this year's cohort in creative arts and humanities are a number of friends, colleagues and acquaintances, including Jeffrey Renard Allen, Brent Hayes Edwards, Thomas Sayers Ellis, Percival Everett, Cathy Park Hong, Rowan Ricardo Phillips, Christina Pugh, Beryl Satter, and Akhil Sharma. Other literary figures receiving awards include Dan Beachy-Quick, Maud Casey, Vikram Chandra, Megan Daum, Matthew Dickman, Kristoffer Diaz, Rivka Galchen, Anthony Marra, Cate Marvin, Bernadette Mayer, Joshua Mehigan, Kevin Powers, Alex Ross, and Kenneth Warren. Also, visual artists such as Mel Chin, filmmakers like Akosua Adoma Owusu, philosophers like the aesthetician Dominic McIver Lopes, critics like G. Gabrielle Starr, composers like AACM member and chronicler George Lewis, and social scientists such as my former colleague the eminent psychologist Jennifer Richeson all received fellowships. Congrats to all the recipients!

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