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.