Poetry News

Sjohnna McCray is the Winner of the 2015 Walt Whitman Award!

By Harriet Staff

Sjohnna mccray

Congratulations to Sjohnna McCray: winner of this year's Walt Whitman Award! The Academy of American Poets presents the Walt Whitman Award each year to one poet of exceptional promise. Sjohnna McCray won for his manuscript entitled Rapture; Tracy K. Smith judged this year's contest. From the Academy of American Poets:

New York, NY (March 30, 2015) – The Academy of American Poets is pleased to announce that Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Tracy K. Smith has selected Sjohnna McCray as the recipient of the 2015 Walt Whitman Award, the nation’s most valuable first-book prize. As the winner of the Whitman Award, McCray’s manuscript, Rapture, will be published by Graywolf Press in 2016, and the Academy of American Poets will purchase and send thousands of copies of the book to its members, making it one of the most widely distributed poetry books of the year. McCray will also receive a six-week all-expenses-paid residency at the Civitella Ranieri Center in Umbria, Italy, $5,000, and will be featured on Poets.org and in American Poets magazine.

Established in 1975, the Academy of American Poets’ Walt Whitman Award is designed to encourage the work of emerging poets. Previous recipients include poets Nicole Cooley, Suji Kwock Kim, Eric Pankey, Matt Rasmussen, and Alberto Ríos, among others.

About Sjohnna McCray’s Rapture, Tracy K. Smith writes, “These poems are so beautifully crafted, so courageous in their truth-telling, and so full of what I like to think of as lyrical wisdom—the visceral revelations that only music, gesture and image, working together, can impart—that not only did they stop me in my tracks as a judge, but they changed me as a person. Sjohnna McCray’s is an ecstatic and original voice, and he lends it to family, history, race and desire in ways that are healing and enlarging. Rapture announces a prodigious talent and a huge human heart.”

Sjohnna McCray was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. He was educated at Ohio University and received his MFA from the University of Virginia where he was a Henry Hoyns Fellow. He has a master’s degree in English education from Columbia University’s Teachers College. McCray was the winner of the AWP Intro Journal Award and Ohio University’s Emerson Poetry Prize, and his poetry has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. His work has appeared in numerous journals, including The Southern Review, Chicago Quarterly Review, and Shenandoah. He lives and teaches in Savannah, Georgia, and has taught in New York City, Phoenix, and Chicago. [...]

Congratulations Sjohnna McCray!