Whiting Awards

Since 1985, the Foundation has supported creative writing through the Whiting Awards, which are given annually to ten emerging writers in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama.

News & Reviews

Layli Long Soldier interviews Joy Harjo

Long Soldier talks to recent Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize for lifetime achievement in poetry winner, Joy Harjo, about how to be fearless, and “the journey toward poetry that we’re all on, together.” 

“The Owner of the Night” by Mark Doty

“This hour/ not reserved for you: who/ are you to enter it?” asks Doty, in a new poem for Poets.org.

John Freeman on why you should be reading Layli Long Soldier’s poetry

In the Los Angeles Times, Freeman praises Long Soldier’s repetition and lyricism in her collection Whereas, and invites readers to “scratch themselves raw” reading her poems about Native American history. 

A Doll’s House, Part 2 by Lucas Hnath is nominated for Tony Awards

Hnath’s A Doll’s House, Part 2 is nominated for Best Play. The play, a continuation of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, was also nominated in several other categories, including Best Costume Design and Best Lighting. All four of the play’s actors were nominated for Tony Awards. 

Open Letters Monthly on Elif Batuman and Dostoevsky

Open Letters Monthly reflects on Batuman’s The Idiot and Dostoevsky’s book of the same name, exploring the themes of reality and tragedy in both works. 

From “Interruptive” by Phillip B. Williams

Poetry Foundation features an excerpt from a new poem by Williams, “Interruptive,” in which the poet laments, “What do I know of occupation/ but my own colonized thinking to shake/ free from.”

The Last Magazine interviews Ocean Vuong

Vuong talks about why a poetic outlook is vital even to non-writers, and why he believes “to be a writer is to basically confront and embody failure.”

The Kenyon Review interviews Layli Long Soldier

Long Soldier discusses her personal method of using poetry as protest, and why Native writers – including fellow Whiting winner Sherwin Bitsui – are the artists who most inspire her. 

Douglas Kearney is nominated for the California Book Award

Presented by Commonwealth Society, the awards “strive to annually recognize the state’s best writers and illuminate the wealth and diversity of California-based literature.” Kearney is a finalist in poetry, for his collection Buck Studies.

Permafrost magazine interviews Jericho Brown

Brown discusses how poets can change the world and how to begin the process of “asking the poem what it wants to be.”

Manuel Muñoz and Virginia Grise “bring Latinx experience to theater”

The University of Arizona highlights Whiting winners Muñoz and Grise’s upcoming work, a dramatic adaptation of the novel Their Dogs Came with Them, which seeks to explore displacement in the Latinx community. 

“Elif Batuman’s Apprenticeship”

Bookforum explores the role of the university in Batuman’s novel The Idiot, writing, “For Batuman, the university offers the writer not a retreat, but rather encounter, exposure, and the opportunity to travel the globe.”

“A Modern Masterpiece Turns 25”

The New York Times recaps a Symphony Space panel on Denis Johnson’s Jesus’ Son with writers Jenny Offill, Chuck Palahniuk, and Whiting winners Victor LaValle and Michael Cunningham. The four discusses the uniqueness of Johnson’s work and why, as Cunningham says, “so many people want to write this book over again.”

4 Columns reviews WHEREAS by Layli Long Soldier

The art magazine praises Long Soldier’s use of language, writing that, in her collection, language becomes "material, as living as grass.”

Safiya Sinclair receives the Addison M. Metcalf Award

The $10,000 prize, awarded by the American Academy of Arts and Letters, honors “a young writer of fiction, nonfiction, drama, or poetry.”

“Geronimo Takes Flight” by Elena Passarello

In her Paris Review column on animals, Passarello profiles a creature with orange teeth and a talent for family planning. 

Ishion Hutchinson and Teju Cole in conversation

Hutchinson talks to fellow writer Teju Cole about why God is the strongest influence on his work and why writing poetry is “attempting to do the work of immortality.”

Phillip B. Williams is a finalist for the Thom Gunn Award for Gay Poetry

The finalists, presented by Publishing Triangle, represent “the very best in LGBT writing for calendar year 2016.” Williams is nominated for his collection Thief in the Interior. 

Four Whiting winners are nominated for the Lambda Literary Awards

Brian Blanchfield is nominated for Gay Memoir/Biography, Leopoldine Core for Bisexual Fiction, Darryl Pinckney for Gay Fiction, and Ocean Vuong is nominated for Gay Poetry. The awards celebrate achievement in LGBTQ literature.

“Under the Spell of James Baldwin” by Darryl Pinckney

In The New York Review of Books, Pinckney reviews documentary I Am Not Your Negro, which he calls “a tone poem to a freedom movement not yet finished.” Pinckney explores why film’s footage of Baldwin, although intimate, can't explain Baldwin’s relationship with Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcom X. 

Jericho Brown wins the 2017 Lyric Award

Brown received the award, given by the Poetry Society for a lyric poem on any subject, for his poem “As a Human Being.” 

Alice Sola Kim is a Brooklyn magazine Influencer

Chosen as one of the 100 residents shaping Brooklyn, Kim discusses her proudest achievement and why we need to “defamiliarize whiteness.”

Daniel Alarcón on the origins of Radio Ambulante

In an excerpt from recent collection Reality Radio, Alarcón shares how a story lead in a boxing ring inspired the creation of Radio Ambulante, the Spanish-language narrative podcast that tells stories of Spanish speakers across the Americas.

The Literary Show Project reviews The Idiot by Elif Batuman

The Literary Show Project writes that Batuman’s novel about a Turkish-American freshman at Harvard is “probably the best campus novel since Zadie Smith’s On Beauty,” praising Batuman’s depiction of youth.  

Publications & Productions

Autobiography of a Terrorist by Saïd Sayrafiezadeh

Sayrafiezadeh's play, starring a character named Saïd, explores growing up Iranian and Jewish-American during the Iran hostage crisis. As he and his well-meaning collaborators try to stage his script, things go quickly and hilariously from bad to worse, leading Saïd to wonder if he will ever be able to fit in. 

Sorrow Bread by Mark Cox

In this collection, poems selected from Cox's thirty-year career converse with each other across books and across time. They explore essential connections--one's relationship to poetic tradition, the reader, the natural world, other lives, language itself. 

Winter Hill by Timberlake Wertenbaker

Set in Bolton, in the near future, Winter Hill centers on a group of eight local women as they deal with the ramifications of land on nearby Winter Hill being sold to developers to create a luxurious skyscraper hotel. Timberlake Wertenbaker’s new play explores how a group of seemingly ordinary women endeavour to protect their local community, no matter the cost.

Animals Strike Curious Poses by Elena Passarello

Beginning with Yuka, a 39,000 year old mummified woolly mammoth, each of the essays in Animals Strike Curious Poses investigates a different famous animal named and immortalized by humans. "This book will leave little doubt that Passarello is one our country’s most gifted young prose writers," writes Héctor Tobar.

Late Arcade by Nathaniel Mackey

Nathaniel Mackey’s Late Arcade opens in Los Angeles and details Jazz musicians and artist invention. Bookforum calls the Jazz novel's lyricism "exquisite."

WHEREAS by Layli Long Soldier

WHEREAS confronts the language of the United States government in its responses, treaties, and apologies to Native American peoples and tribe. Booklist writes that the collection is “searingly intelligent, masterfully crafted, and unarguably important." 

Vang by Mary Swander

Vang is based on Swander's research into recent Iowa immigrant farmers. Through interviews and photographs, Swander has created a play about the struggles, survival skills, and connection to the land of Hmong, Mexican, Sudanese and Dutch immigrants.

Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life by Yiyun Li

Yiyun Li's memoir, written over two years while the author battled suicidal depression, is the account of Li's experiences reading her most significant literary influences. "Reading Yiyun Li feels like being inside a mind—a quietly forceful, unrelenting mind," writes Eula Biss.

Buck Studies by Douglas Kearney

Buck Studies explores an intersection of Greek and black stories through forms like gangsta rap and the murder ballad. "Kearney is at the other end of the century, using a multicultural voice inflected with the concerns of what it means to be a young black man at this time and at this place," writes The Los Angeles Times.

Milk Black Carbon by Joan Kane

Kane's latest collection explores motherhood, marriage, extended family and its geographical context in the rapidly changing arctic. "This is a twenty-first-century poetry, urgent, necessary, and of its time," says poet Carolyn Forché.

Enigma Variations by André Aciman

In Enigma Variations, Aciman charts the love life of a man named Paul, from adolescence in southern Italy where he falls for his parents' cabinetmaker, to his lust on tennis courts of New York. "Aciman has made a magnificent, living thing," writes The New York Times.

Skeleton Coast by Elizabeth Arnold

Arnold's collection explores the impact of encounters with evil. Fellow poet Jennifer Clarvoe describes each poem in the book as "a delicately fused mechanism, twisting around both still and moving parts, which the reader tracks silently on the way to inevitable, impeccable detonations."