About ten years ago, I wrote a blog critiquing how all the major poetry awards were going to white poets. It was not a unique insight, but more an expression of institutional racism.
This year, however, nearly all the major poetry awards went to writers of color. Check out this list:
- Pulitzer Prize: Gregory Pardlo
- National Book Award: Robin Coste Lewis
- National Book Critics Circle Award: Claudia Rankine
- American Book Award: Arlene Biala & Craig Santos Perez
- Pen Center USA award for poetry: Claudia Rankine
- PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award for Poetry: Saeed Jones
- Los Angeles Times Book Prize: Claudia Rankine
- Wallace Stevens Award: Joy Harjo
- Walt Whitman Award: Sjohnna McCray
- Kate Tufts Discovery Award: Brandon Som
- Lannan Literary Awards: A. Van Jordan, Layli Long Soldier, Philip Metres
- US Poet Laureate: Juan Felipe Herrera
There are many more fellowships, grants, prizes that were given out this year, and many were awarded to poets of color.
Some say it is because of racial nepotism, since today there are many more poets of color who are judging literary awards.Others say it is the result of literary affirmative action and/or historical guilt. Others are adopting fake ethnic names & bios so that they have a better chance of winning an award. You are sooo lucky, they say, because you have soooo much trending trauma to write about! Others are saying: enjoy because it will never happen again. While others are saying, will you finally quiet down now and get over it.
But Dr. Craig says: it’s about damn time! this is what a level playing field looks like! we should still burn down the system but in the meantime let’s recognize our excellence!