For Immediate Release

Poetry Foundation Announces Winner of 2012 Emily Dickinson First Book Award

Award recognizes an American poet of at least 40 years of age who has yet to publish a first collection

May 17, 2012

CHICAGO — The Poetry Foundation is pleased to announce that poet Hailey Leithauser has won the 2012 Emily Dickinson First Book Award.

The occasional award is designed to recognize an American poet of at least 40 years of age who has yet to publish a first collection of poetry. Leithauser’s book-length poetry manuscript Swoop will be published by Graywolf Press in October 2013, and she will receive a $10,000 prize. She will also be honored at the Pegasus Awards ceremony, along with the 2012 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize winner W.S. Di Piero, at the Poetry Foundation on Monday, June 11.

In describing Leithauser’s verse, Jeff Shotts, poetry editor at Graywolf, noted its playfulness.

“Leithauser is a risk-taker. She is innovative—with spirited titles and musical outbursts—but also nods to poetic tradition with rhyming sonnets and other lyric techniques. I take delight in so many of these lines and stanzas. I am engaged, throughout, and admire her wide-ranging talent.”

Born in 1954 in Baltimore, Leithauser grew up in Maryland and central Florida, and has lived in upstate New York and Charleston, South Carolina. After taking poetry workshops as an undergraduate, the first with then-Poetry editor John Frederick Nims in the late 1970s, she stopped writing for several decades. She returned to poetry in 2000 and has since published in The Antioch Review, The Gettysburg Review, Pleiades, Best American Poetry, and Poetry. She is a 2004 Discovery/The Nation Award winner and the recipient of an individual artist’s grant from the Maryland Arts Council. Over the years she has worked as a salad chef, real estate office manager, gourmet food salesperson, freelance copy editor, phone surveyor, bookstore clerk, fact checker, and, most recently, senior reference librarian at the Department of Energy in Washington, D.C. She has a BA in English literature and a master’s in library and information science, both from the University of Maryland. She lives in Silver Spring, Maryland.

“ ‘This is my letter to the world that never wrote to me,’ said Emily Dickinson, who remained undiscovered in a lifetime of writing. With this first-book award, the world writes back,” said John Barr, president of the Poetry Foundation.

Previous recipients of the Emily Dickinson First Book Prize are Landis Everson (2005) and Brian Culhane (2007).

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 About the Poetry Foundation
The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, is an independent literary organization committed to a vigorous presence for poetry in our culture. It exists to discover and celebrate the best poetry and to place it before the largest possible audience. The Poetry Foundation seeks to be a leader in shaping a receptive climate for poetry by developing new audiences, creating new avenues for delivery, and encouraging new kinds of poetry through innovative partnerships, prizes, and programs. Opened to the public in June 2011, the Poetry Foundation building in Chicago provides new space for the Foundation’s extensive roster of public programs and events. It also houses a public garden, a library, and an exhibition gallery, as well as the offices of the Poetry Foundation and Poetry magazine. For more information, please visit poetryfoundation.org.

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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