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

Identity Theory interviews Major Jackson

Jackson discusses the implications of the increasing role of technology in our lives, and why he believes that “if you want to get to know a people, you look at the poems they’ve written.” 

The New York Times reviews The Answers by Catherine Lacey

Dwight Garner praises Lacey’s “intricately detailed” world, and declares that Lacey is “the real thing, and in The Answers she takes full command of her powers.”

“Denis Johnson’s Lasting Advice”

In the New Yorker, writer David Means remembers his experience in Denis Johnson’s class at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. “I felt,” he writes, “in the immediate presence of humility.”

“Domestic Violence” by Roger Reeves

In Poetry magazine, a new poem by Reeves depicts violent acts committed against black Americans, and asks, “Let’s find us another theory of light. Or darkness.”

The Chicago Review of Books interviews Phillip B. Williams

Williams talks about how "molecules of memory" figure into his poems and trying to inspire hopefulness. 

Radius reviews Whereas by Layli Long Soldier

The poetry magazine applauds Long Soldier’s “daunting undertaking,” writing that her collection is a “damning volume of poetry that subverts bureaucratic corrosion of words.”

The Sonora Review interviews Francisco Cantú

Cantú discusses his relationship with West Texas, and the long and complicated journey to identifying as a Latino writer. 

“Too Many Girlfriends!” by Catherine Lacey

VICE features an excerpt from Lacey’s latest novel, The Answers, about a woman with a mysterious ailment who participates in a romantic experiment with a rich actor. “What a danger it is to love,” Lacey's narrator muses, “how it warps a person from the inside, changes all the locks and loses all the keys.” 

“On TV, Black Girl Sadness Doesn’t Get to Be Sexy” by Kaitlyn Greenidge

On Glamour, Greenidge reflects on the media’s reluctance to explore black female depression, writing “Everywhere we look, black people—especially black women—are expected (or misinterpreted) by both white people and people of color to be superhuman.”

Paste magazine interviews Victor LaValle

LaValle discusses his latest project, the Frankenstein-inspired comic book series Destroyer, and how comics enable him to create monsters that prose can’t. 

“When Talking Canines Took Over New York”

On the 20th anniversary of Lives of the Monster Dogs by Kirsten Bakis, Jeff VanderMeer reflects on the “strange, if beautifully so” novel that “makes you think even as it traps you in its surreal, fictive dream.”

“The Rollicking 2,000-Mile Route to America’s Psychotic Core” by J. D. Daniels

In Esquire, Daniels journeys to Lebanon, Kansas, geographic center of the United States. “Take me to the eye of the storm, I said to my suitcase,” he writes, “and my suitcase said, Okay.

“Failure’s Failure” by Phillip B. Williams

For Poetry magazine, Williams expands on his recently published poem “Interruptive” and the notion of failing, asking “What does it mean for a country to be a cage and for that cage to escape the very dream it tried to hold in captivity?”

The Guardian reviews The Correspondence by J.D. Daniels

Fellow writer J. Robert Lennon reviews Daniels’s latest, calling the collection “surprising,” “disturbing,” and “often brilliant.” “The Correspondence is a complete work about a work-in-progress,” Lennon writes, “the self-portrait of a writer slowly coming into his own.”

“About Suffering, Robert Lowell Was Never Wrong”

On Literary Hub, Dan Chiasson discusses why the amount of anguish in Robert Lowell's work is "inspiring" - and timely.

Excerpt from Dissolve by Sherwin Bitsui

In World Literature Today, a new poem by Bitsui introduces readers to a strange but familiar world. It begins, “A bottom-lit sea ponders the lake’s questions,/ their secret conversations/ thatch howls to whimpers exhaled/ from an isthmus of drowned wolves.”

Colson Whitehead wins the ABA Indies Choice Award

Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad received the award for Adult Fiction Book of the Year. The winning titles “are representative of the engaging and thought-provoking titles hand-sold every day,” said ABA CEO Oren Teicher.

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.”

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."