Madison alum a 2014 Ruth Lilly & Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship Winner

UW-Madison alum and First Wave 1st Cohort member Danez Smith has won a 2014 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation. Smith is one of five young poets who were awarded $129,000 in prizes. 

The Poetry Foundation and Poetry magazine on Tuesday announced the five recipients in Chicago, including Hannah Gamble, Solmaz Sharif, Ocean Vuong and Wendy Xu in addition to Danez Smith. Among the largest awards offered to aspiring poets in the United States, the $25,800 scholarship prize is intended to encourage the further study and writing of poetry and is open to all U.S. poets between 21 and 31 years of age.

Danez Smith
Danez Smith

Smith is the author of [insert] Boy (YesYes Books, forthcoming) and the chapbook hands on ya knees (Penmanship Books, 2013). Smith is the recipient of fellowships from the McKnight Foundation, Cave Canem, VONA (Voices of Our Nation Arts Foundation) and elsewhere. He is a founding member of the multigenre, multicultural Dark Noise Collective. His writing has appeared in Poetry, Ploughshares, Beloit Poetry Journal, Kinfolks and elsewhere. In poetry slam, he is a 2011 Individual World Poetry Slam finalist and the reigning two-time Rustbelt Individual Champion, and was on the 2014 championship team Sad Boy Supper Club. He was the festival director for the Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam in 2014. He holds a BA from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where he was a First Wave Urban Arts Scholar, and was born in St. Paul, Minn.

“Each of this year’s winners is a poet whose work engages with the events that unfold before us every day,” said Don Share, editor of Poetry magazine, announcing the 2014 winners. “Their work resounds both on and off the page, and refreshes, as well as fulfills, the dictum that literature is news that stays news.”

 Established in 1989 by Ruth Lilly to encourage the further writing and study of poetry, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowship program has dramatically expanded since its inception. Until 1995, university writing programs nationwide each nominated one student poet for a single fellowship; from 1996 until 2007, two fellowships were awarded. In 2008 the competition was opened to all U.S. poets between 21 and 31 years of age, and the number of fellowships increased to five, totaling $75,000. In 2013, the Poetry Foundation received a generous gift from the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Memorial Fund to create the Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowships, which increased the fellowship amount from $15,000 to $25,800.

“This is a phenomenal group of young poets,” said Poetry Foundation President Robert Polito. “Their aesthetics and concerns are various, but each is singularly gifted. I’m reminded of Emerson’s sparkling words to Whitman—‘I greet you at the beginning of a great career, which yet must have had a long foreground somewhere, for such a start.’”

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 literary prizes and programs. For more information, please visit

About Poetry Magazine

Founded in Chicago by Harriet Monroe in 1912, Poetry is the oldest monthly devoted to verse in the English-speaking world. Monroe’s “Open Door” policy, set forth in Volume 1 of the magazine, remains the most succinct statement of Poetry’s mission: to print the best poetry written today, in whatever style, genre or approach. The magazine established its reputation early by publishing the first important poems of T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Marianne Moore, Wallace Stevens, H.D., William Carlos Williams, Carl Sandburg and other now-classic authors. In succeeding decades it has presented—often for the first time—works by virtually every major contemporary poet.

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Other fellowship winners include: 

Hannah Gamble is sending out her second book of poems. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in American Poetry Review, The BelieverPoetry, Court Green and Rattle. She lives in Chicago, where she is an artist-in-residence at the Museum of Science and Industry, and has recently completed a screenplay about a Midwestern community college that offers an associate’s degree in not getting raped.

 Born in Istanbul, Turkey, to Iranian parents, Solmaz Sharif holds degrees from the University of California–Berkeley, where she studied and taught with June Jordan’s Poetry for the People, and New York University. Her first published poem, included in A World Between: Poems, Short Stories, and Essays by Iranian-Americans (George Braziller, 1999), was written at the age of 13. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Poetry, the Kenyon Review, jubilat, Gulf Coast, Boston ReviewWitness and other publications. The former managing director of the Asian American Writers’ Workshop, Sharif has had her work recognized with a “Discovery”/Boston Review Poetry Prize, scholarships from NYU and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and a fellowship at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Mass. Most recently, she was awarded an NEA fellowship and a Stegner Fellowship. She is currently a Jones Lecturer at Stanford University.

Ocean Vuong has received honors from Kundiman, Poets House, the Civitella Ranieri Foundation (Italy), the Elizabeth George Foundation and the Academy of American Poets as well as a 2014 Pushcart Prize. His poems have appeared in Poetry, The Nation, Boston Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Guernica, TriQuarterly and American Poetry Review, which awarded him the 2012 Stanley Kunitz Prize for Younger Poets. Born in Saigon, Vietnam, he lives in Queens, N.Y.

Wendy Xu was born in Shandong, China, in 1987. She earned a BA from the University of Iowa and an MFA from the University of Massachusetts–Amherst. Her debut collection, You Are Not Dead, was published in 2013 by the Cleveland State University Poetry Center, and her writing has appeared in The Best American Poetry, Hyperallergic, Gulf CoastDenver Quarterly and elsewhere. Xu lives in Brooklyn, N.Y.