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Yale Series of Younger Poets Winners

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2024 – John Liles, Bees, and after

Armantrout says: “The poems in Bees, and after are dense, sonically gorgeous studies of various natural things and creatures, including light, bees, minerals, shell fish and crabs, insects, and the workings (and failures) of the heart. John Liles has studied these phenomena like a 19th century naturalist. His portraits are both scientifically grounded and emotionally engaged. This writing resonates with an awareness of the threats these creatures (such as bees and shellfish) face in our changing climate. The poems are tender; they could even be seen as elegies. The book is dedicated to a beloved grandmother who recently died. It seems likely that the poems about the (mammalian/human) heart arise from grief associated with her death. Some people feel that science inflected poems must be geeky and cold. This book helps prove them wrong.”

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2023 – Cindy Juyoung Ok, Ward Toward

Armantrout says: “Cindy Juyoung Ok is a wonderfully inventive poet with a command of her craft. She writes in many forms, some invented, but her constant impulse is to break the frame, to escape oppressive containments. She pushes constantly against the social norms that have sometimes trapped her, writing with startling frankness about mental wards, domestic abuse, and racial stereotyping. Her impulse is to shake things up. Using dream material, sound play, puns, and grammatic instability, she shows that there is always more than one way to make sense, as she elegantly argues at the end of ‘The Five Room Dance’: ‘a closed round, the words we cross a swarm / from which I am wrung. As I, wrong, form.’”

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2022 – Mary-Alice Daniel, Mass for Shut-Ins

Of her second selection since being named judge of America’s longest-running poetry prize, Armantrout says: “This book should come with a warning—and it does, with three in fact. The first section opens with the generic symbol for caution; the second with the warning sign for radioactivity; the third with the biohazard symbol. Is Mass for Shut-Ins this scary? Almost—and only partly because it explores such topics as serial killers, plague, slavery, and the nature of hell. Against humans creating hell on earth, Daniel draws on animistic, Islamic, and syncretic Christian traditions from her native Nigeria to unleash potent incantations, rituals and spells, electric as St. Elmo’s fire. This is Flowers of Evil for the 21st century. Buckle up.”

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2021 – Robert Wood Lynn, Mothman Apologia

“Robert Wood Lynn has written about tragedy without either grand-standing or giving in to self-pity. The Mothman has always been an equivocal messenger. Here he begins to doubt his own existence as soon as he scans the internet (much as anyone deep in a ‘flyover’ state might do). It’s possible to compare this work with John Berryman’s Dream Songs or with documentary poetry like Salient by Elizabeth T. Gray. As a reader, I was often surprised, even engrossed, and never once bored! How often can you say that?,” said new judge Rae Armantrout.

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2020 – Desiree C. Bailey, What Noise Against the Cane

Series judge Carl Phillips says: “Bailey wrestles with how history can make of the self an exile from itself; the poems here work like shifting maps, each an attempt to make a way back to that self, and then past it—which is to say, the poems argue for hope and faith equally, despite fears that ‘I will always be/out of body, I will always fall//outside the lines,’ despite realities like the fact ‘that Trayvon [will] not be avenged.’ These are powerful poems, indeed, and they make a persuasive argument for the transformative powers of steady defiance: ‘I will not go mad. I am vessel,’ Bailey insists; ‘my hands are the scarlet ibises/soaring the salt-washed dawn/cleaving the sky open like a blade.’”

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2019 – Jill Osier, The Solace Is Not the Lullaby

“Osier’s is a sensibility unlike any I’ve encountered before—the poems here are thrilling, and strangely new,” said judge Carl Phillips.

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2018 – Yanyi, The Year of Blue Water

Carl Phillips elaborated on the themes of The Year of Blue Water: “The poems suggest a quest that has involved turning to many sources for guidance: tarot, therapy, an ongoing dialogue with writers (from Audre Lorde to Raymond Carver) and with the visual artist Agnes Martin in particular; and poems especially—the making of them—, as ‘a way to ask for what exists, to invite what wants to be visible.’ The Year of Blue Water speaks to a life that feels decidedly hard-won, and worth the hardship—triumphant, ultimately: ‘I am worth the work of transformations . . . I do not fear how I will emerge from myself, or how many times.’ A strange, elegant, beguiling, persuasive debut.”

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2017 – Duy Doan, We Play a Game

 “If games figure in Duy Doan’s We Play a Game, they do so much more seriously, and resonantly, than the title alone suggests. For game here can mean as well the strategies for weathering those parts of society that threaten identity itself, at the level of gender (in all its fluidity), or race, of family as history and tradition—of language, too, and our expectations for it. Wide-ranging in subject, Doan’s poems include boxing, tongue twisters, hedgehogs, Billie Holiday, soccer and, hardly least of all, a Vietnamese heritage that butts up against an American upbringing in ways at once comic, estranging, off-kiltering. Doan negotiates the distance between surviving and thriving, and offers here his own form of meditation on, ultimately, childhood, history, culture—who we are, and how—refusing all along to romanticize any of it.”

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2016 – Airea D. Matthews, Simulacra

“Rebellion is the first word that comes to mind, when reading simulacra, Airea Matthews’s rollicking, destabilizing, at once intellectually sly and piercing and finally poignant debut.”

2015 – Noah Warren, The Destroyer in the Glass

The Destroyer in the Glass impresses at once with its wedding of intellect, heart, sly humor, and formal dexterity, all in the service of negotiating those moments when an impulse toward communion with others competes with an instinct for a more isolated self. The poems both examine and embody the nexus of joy and sorrow, of certainty and confusion, without which there’d be none of the restlessness that makes us uniquely human.  Warren’s vision is a generous one indeed—and itself a gift.”

2014 – Ansel Elkins, Blue Yodel

“Through her arresting use of persona, in particular, Ansel Elkins reminds us of the pivotal role of compassion in understanding others and—more deeply and often more disturbingly—our various inner selves,” series judge Carl Phillips says. “Razor-edged in their intelligence, southern gothic in their sensibility, these poems enter the strangenesses of others and return us to a world at once charged, changed, brutal, and luminous.”

2013 – Eryn Green, Eruv

Additional Past Winners

2012 – Will Schutt, Westerly2011 – Eduardo Corral, Slow Lightning2010 – Katherine Larson, Radial Symmetry
2009 – Ken Chen, Juvenilia2008 – Arda Collins, It Is Daylight2007 – Fady Joudah, The Earth in the Attic
2006 – Jessica Fisher, Frail-Craft2005 – Jay Hopler, Green Squall2004 – Richard Siken, Crush
2003 – Peter Streckfus, The Cuckoo2002 – Loren Goodman, Famous Americans2001 – Sean Singer, Discography
2000 – Maurice Manning, Lawrence Booth’s Book Of Visions1999 – Davis McCombs, Ultima Thule1998 – Craig Arnold, Shells
1996- Talvikki Ansel, My Shining Archipelago1995 – Ellen Hinsey, Cities of Memory1994 – Tony Crunk, Living in The Resurrection
1993 – Valerie Wohlfield, Thinking The World Visible1992 – Jody Gladding, Stone Crop1991 – Nicholas Samaras, Hands of The Saddlemaker
1990 – Christiane Jacox Kyle, Bears Dancing in the Northern Air1989 – Daniel Hall, Hermit with Landscape1988 – Thomas Bolt, Out of The Woods
1987 – Brigit Pegeen Kelly, To The Place of Trumpets1986 – Julie Agoos, Above The Lands1985 – George Bradley,Terms To Be Met
1984 – Pamela Alexander, Navigable Waterways1983 – Richard Kenney, The Evolution of the Flightless Bird1982 – Cathy Song, Picture Bride
1981 – David Wojahn, Icehouse Lights1980 – John Bensko, Green Soldiers1979 – William Virgil Davis, One Way to Reconstruct The Scene
1978 – Leslie Ullman, Natural Histories1977 – Bin Ramke, The Difference Between Night and Day1976 – Olga Broumas, Beginning with O
1975 – Carolyn Forché, Gathering The Tribes1974 – Maura Stanton, Snow on Snow1973 – Michael Ryan, Threats Instead of Trees
1972 – Robert Hass, Field Guide1971 – Michael Casey, Obscenities1970 – Peter Klappert, Lugging Vegetables to Nantucket
1969 – Hugh Seidman, Collecting Evidence1968 – Judith Johnson Sherwin, Uranium Poems1967 – Helen Chasin, Coming Close and Other Poems
1966 – James Tate, The Lost Pilot1964 – Jean Valentine, Dream Barker1963 – Peter Davison, The Breaking of the Day
1962 – Sandra Hochman, Manhattan Pastures1961 – Jack Gilbert, Views of Jeopardy1960 – Alan Dugan, Poems
1959 – George Starbuck, Bone Thoughts1958 – William Dickey, Of The Festivity1957 – John Hollander, A Crackling of Thorns
1956 – James Wright, The Green Wall1955 – John Ashbery, Some Trees1953 – Daniel Hoffman, An Armada of Thirty Whales
1952 – Edgar Bogardus, Various Jangling Keys1951 – W. S. Merwin, A Mask for Janus1950 – Adrienne Rich, A Change of World
1948 – Rosalie Moore, The Grasshopper’s Man and Other Poems1947 – Robert Horan, A Beginning1946 – Joan Murray, Poems
1945 – Eve Merriam, Family Circle1944 – Charles E. Butler, Cut Is the Branch1943 – William Meredith, Love Letters from an Impossible Land
1941 – Margaret Walker, For My People1940 – Jeremy Ingalls, The Metaphysical Sword1939 – Norman Rosten, Return Again, Traveler
1938 – Reuel Denney, The Connecticut River and Other Poems1937 – Joy Davidman, Letter to a Comrade1936 – Margaret Haley, The Gardener Mind
1935 – Edward Weis Miller, The Deer Come Down1934 – Muriel Rukeyser, Theory of Flight1933 – James Agee, Permit Me Voyage
1932 – Shirley Baker, The Dark Hills Under1931 – Paul Engle, Worn Earth1930 – Dorothy Belle Flanagan (aka Dorothy B. Hughes) – Dark Certainty
1929 – Louise Owen, Virtuosa1928 – Henri Faust, Half-Light and Overture Frances M. Frost, Hemlock Wall1927 – Francis Claiborne Mason, This Unchanging Mask Ted Olson, A Stranger and Afraid Mildred Bowers, Twist o’ Smoke
1926 – Lindley Williams Hubbell, Dark Pavilion1925 – Thomas Hornsby Ferril, High Passage Eleanor Slater, Quest1924 – Dorothy E. Reid, Coach into Pumpkin
1923 – Elizabeth Jessup Blake, Up and Down1922 – Beatrice E. Harmon, Mosaics Marion M. Boyd, Silver Wands Amos Niven Wilder, Battle-Retrospect Dean B. Lyman, Jr., The Last Lutanist1921 – Paul Tanaquil, Attitudes Barnard Raymund, Hidden Waters Medora C. Addison, Dreams and a Sword Harold Vinal, White April
1920 – Oscar Williams, Golden Darknes sHervey Allen, Wampum and Old Gold Viola C. White, Horizons Theodore H. Banks, Jr., Wild Geese1919 – Darl MacLeod Boyle, Where Lilith Dances Thomas Caldecot Chubb, The White God and Other Poem sAlfred Raymond Bellinger, Spires and Poplars David Osborne Hamilton, Four Gardens1918 – John C. Farrar, Forgotten Shrines Howard Buck, The Tempering

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