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Poetry Foundation Announces 2018 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowships

Five outstanding young poets honored with $129,000 in prizes.
August 28, 2018

CHICAGO – The Poetry Foundation and Poetry magazine announce the winners of the 2018 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowships: Safia Elhillo, Hieu Minh Nguyen, sam sax, Natalie Scenters-Zapico, and Paul Tran. The $25,800 fellowship is among the largest and most prestigious awards available for young poets in the United States.  

The fellows will make their first joint appearance at the Dodge Poetry Festival in October, and the December 2018 issue of Poetry will feature a sampling of their work.

“Our 2018 fellows created their own trails and important beautiful markers for those who will follow them into the future,” said Poetry editor, Don Share. “Each of these fellows energetically speaks to and contributes to the ever-increasing interest in contemporary poetry, especially among young people.”

Established by Ruth Lilly in 1989 for one student recipient nominated by a university writing program, the fellowship program expanded to two spots in 1996, then five in in 2008. After a generous gift from the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Memorial Fund in 2013, it became the Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowships. Now open to any U.S. poets between the ages of 21 and 31, regardless of whether or not they are affiliated with academic institutions, the fellowship’s expanded inclusivity created space for more young poets to flourish and develop their craft.

This year’s cohort includes a founding member of Slam NYU, a Warren Wilson College MFA candidate, a National Poetry Series winner, a PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award for Poetry winner, and a “Discovery”/Boston Review Poetry Prize winner.

On what being a fellow means to him, Hieu Minh Nguyen said, “This is one of the biggest affirmations I could ask for—not just the endowment, but being in conversation with the lineage of poets who have also had this fellowship. I know that this affirmation isn’t just for me, but for the community that reared me and taught me everything I know about poetry.”

Safia Elhillo also discussed the sense of community tied to the fellowship, saying, “I am most excited, I think, by being in fellowship with this cohort of poets, all of whose writing and literary citizenship continue to teach me about bravery, about craft, about generosity.”

For others, this fellowship is something they returned to again and again. “Winning the Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg is not just a dream come true ten years in the making, but an honor that will help me to continue writing and serving my Latinx communities,” said Natalie Scenters-Zapico, who won in her final year of eligibility. She continued, “To say the borderlands of the Southern U.S. and Northern Mexico inspire my poetry is too simple. No matter where I go I am a fronteriza, and carry that weight with me.”

Far from resting on their laurels, this year’s fellows are energized to make the most of the prize and propel their poetry forward. Of what he wants his poetry to accomplish, sam sax said, “I want to write poems that don’t attempt to make sense of the chaos of the world, only to order it so a reader might see that chaos more plainly.”

Fellow Paul Tran is also interested in exploring the chaos, believing that everything they write comes with consequence, saying “I write to investigate what goodness looks like in the face of such evil, to determine, announce, and celebrate the sophistication, tenacity, audacity, and ferocity of goodness and altruism and love in our world.”

The Poetry Foundation is proud to honor this year’s Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellows and their ferocious good. Previous recipients include Fatimah Asghar, Danez Smith, Kaveh Akbar, Erika L. Sánchez, and Ocean Vuong—some of the brightest lights in poetry today.

MEDIA NOTE: Photos and/or interviews with fellows available upon request.

About the Poetry Foundation
The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, is an independent literary organization committed to a vigorous presence for poetry in American 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 literary prizes and programs.

Follow the Poetry Foundation and Poetry on Facebook at,  Twitter @PoetryFound / @poetrymagazine, and Instagram @PoetryFoundation.

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