Last week, Yale University Press and the James Merrill House Committee announced a partnership beginning in 2012 that will award one of the James Merrill House Program’s brief residencies to the winner of the Yale Younger Poets Prize. Coincidentally, the winner of the 2012 prize is our own Will Schutt, Merrill Fellow for fall 2011. Will was chosen for his manuscript WESTERLY.
Carl Phillips, who is the current judge for the series, selected Will. As is the custom, the prize winner’s manuscript is published one year later. And so, Will’s book will be released by Yale University Press in April of 2013.
The Yale Younger Poetry Prize is the longest running and perhaps the most prestigious poetry contest in the United States. Since 1919, it has celebrated the most prominent new American poets by bringing the work of these artists to the attention of the larger public. The award is reserved for poets, under the age of 40, who have not yet published a book of poetry. It is extremely competitive. The Press receives about 1000 submissions annually.
The union of the James Merrill House Program with this prize is a natural one given our Connecticut location and the fact that Merrill served as a judge for seven terms during the 1980’s. Two of Merrill’s selections from that period were former fellows Daniel Hall and Brigit Kelly. Earlier winners of the prize include such talents as Adrienne Rich, John Ashbery, and Robert Hass.
This prize is an award to our community, too, for the many year’s hard work that have gone into sustaining and maintaining the richness and possibilities of the space that our community inherited from James Merrill in 1995. As Merrill’s reputation grows, perhaps our responsibility to honor his gift to us increases, too. We are proud and honored to be part of the Yale Younger Poetry Series.
Will Schutt earned his BA from Oberlin College and his MFA from Hollins University. His poems and translations from the Italian appear in Agni, FIELD, Harvard Review, The Southern Review and elsewhere. He lives with his wife, Tania Biancalani, in Wainscott, New York. Many of us heard poems from his manuscript when Will read at the Stonington Free Library in December of 2011. You may read a sample of Will’s work on the James Merrill House website.
A nice surprise during January was receiving our former fellow Piotr Gwiazda’s new book: Messages: Poems & Interview. This slim beautiful volume published by Pond Road Press is part poetry and part inteview. In the interview section Piotr discusses literary influence, empire, “the right to illusion,” politics, contemporary poets, poetry and pedagogy, exophonic writing, and his residency at the James Merrill apartment in the fall of 2008. The poems are spare and eloquent. The interview section is background.
Piotr speaks of “a whole little genre of poems written by former fellows about the experience of living and working in Merrill’s apartment” and he has called this book his “Stonington book” which is a lovely tribute to those of us who keep the Merrill Apartment, it’s vibe, and the residency program alive. Of course, we love poems about ourselves and that would be Daylight Saving – a poem about Stonington.
Messages is, in fact, a book that is about much more than our little town. Though a number of the poems began in some form during Piotr’s residency here, the book is not about Stonington. It is about politics, modern life and how we are affected or disaffected by what is around us. Life in Stonington is, if anything, a refuge from many of the experiences and emotions Messages addresses, but Piotr reminds us that nowhere are we immune to it all: removeable tattoos, life after people, ether.
Piotr was the Merrill House Writer-in-Residence in the Fall of 2008. He is currently an Associate Professor of English at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), where he teaches courses in modern and contemporary poetry, American literature, and world literature. You can read more about him in his own blog PIOTR GWIAZDA.
Peter Filkins, arrived on Tuesday to begin his residency. He will be in Stonington until the end of May. Peter is the author of four books of poems, What She Knew, After Homer, Augustine’s Vision, and the forthcoming The View We’re Granted. The recipient of a Stover Award in Poetry and the New American Press Chapbook Award, he has also received a grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and held residencies at Yaddo, Millay, the MacDowell Colony, and the American Academy in Berlin. His work has appeared in numerous publications, including The New Republic, Partisan Review, The New Criterion, and Southwest Review. He is also the translator of the collected poems of Ingeborg Bachmann, Darkness Spoken, and H.G. Adler’s novels The Journey and Panorama. He teaches writing and literature at Bard College at Simon’s Rock.
The James Merrill House Committee will welcome Peter on Monday, 23 January, from 5 to 7 in the evening with a wine and cheese reception at Noah’s Restaurant on Water Street in Stonington. This gathering is free and open to the public. If you are in our area, we hope you will stop in and meet Peter.
Events planned for Peter’s residency will include a reading and discussion group series to be held in the Merrill Apartment on several Sunday afternoons this spring, a reading by a visiting poet – a friend of Peter’s – to be announced, and a reading by Peter from his own work at the Stonington Free Library on 25 March. There will be updates and more information about all of these events here and on our website and on our Facebook page. Stay tuned.
James Merrill Writer-in-Resident Will Schutt will be leading a reading, listening, and discussion group on select Sundays this fall. Each Sunday we will be sharing poems and stories that take the tops of our heads off, or just make us scratch our heads. Participants are encouraged to bring a poem or short piece of prose by someone else that is relevant to each meeting’s theme.
For example, for the October 23rd session someone might bring William Carlos Williams’ “The Red Wheelbarrow”; for the November 20th session you could bring Elizabeth Bishop’s “Under the Window: Ouro Preto”.
Or simply come to listen and discuss the readings.
Meetings are meant to be fun and supportive. This will be a nurturing environment.
23 October | 20 November | 11 December 3:30 to 4:30 PM
James Merrill Apartment . 3rd Floor 107 Water Street, Stonington
October 23: Eye-Candy: Images & Objects
November 20: Other Landscapes, Other Lives: Writing about Faraway Countries and Different Lives
December 11: What Rough Beast: Writing about Animals
Will Schutt is the recipient of awards and fellowships from the Academy of American Poets, the James Merrill House and the Stadler Center for Poetry. His poems have recently appeared in FIELD, Harvard Review, Kenyon Review, The Southern Review and elsewhere, and his translations from the Italian have appeared in AGNI, A Public Space, and Drunken Boat.
For more information please contact Wiil Schutt: firstname.lastname@example.org or Lynn Callahan at 908-3652. If you plan to attend, please RSVP to Will.