The Walt Whitman Award brings first-book publication, a cash prize of $5,000, and a one-month residency at the Vermont Studio Center to an American who has never before published a book of poetry. The winning manuscript, chosen by an eminent poet, is published by Louisiana State University Press. The Academy purchases copies of the book for distribution to its members.
The award was established in 1975 to encourage the work of emerging poets and to enable the publication of a poet’s first book. Submissions are accepted each year from September 15 to November 15, and an entry form and fee are required. The judge for the 2009 award is Juan Felipe Herrera.
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For those who are so inclined to submit to the above award, go to it then. Juan Felipe, a poet for whom I have nothing but great respect, is judging, and this is great if you know anything about his work and his poetics. I can also say that being acknowledged by the Academy of American Poets has been quite good for me.
And on the subject of awards again for a second, my only suggestions or pieces of advice would be not to deplete your finances, and not to submit your manuscript to anything and everything that calls itself a first book award; that’s a waste of your good work. Finally, do everything humanly possible to make sure your poetry manuscript is really, the best thing you could possibly write — that is, until you are working on your next poetry manuscript.