Jenny Xie Wins the 2017 Walt Whitman Award


The Academy of American Poets has announced that Jenny Xie is the winner of the 2017 Walt Whitman Award, chosen by US Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Hererra. The prize includes a six-week all-expenses-paid residency at the Civitella Ranieri Center in Umbria, Italy; a cash prize of $5,000; and publication of the prize-winning manuscript, Eye Level, by Graywolf Press in 2018.


The 2016 Walt Whitman Award-winning book, Afterland, by Mai Der Vang, will be published by Graywolf Press next month.


Graywolf Press executive editor Jeff Shotts had this to say: “Jenny Xie’s Eye Level is so subtly ingenious and artfully made, and wonders who we are when we are in transit and who we are when we think of ourselves at home. All of us at Graywolf are excited to publish this terrific debut collection through our proud collaboration with the Academy of American Poets on the Walt Whitman Award.”


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. The 2015 Walt Whitman Award-winning book was Rapture by Sjohnna McCray


In his prize citation, Juan Felipe Herrera wrote: “‘Between Hanoi and Sapa’ this collection begins and continues with its ‘frugal mouth’ that ‘spends the only foreign words it owns.’ This knowing ‘travels’ in a spiral-shaped wisdom. We go places; we enter multiple terrains of seeing; we cross cultural borders of time, voices, locations—of consciousness. Then—we notice we are in a trembling stillness with all beings and all things. Jenny Xie’s Eye Level is a timely collection of beauty, clarity, and expansive humanity.”

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Jenny Xie was born in Hefei, China and raised in New Jersey. She holds degrees from Princeton University and New York University’s Creative Writing Program, and has received fellowships and support from Kundiman, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the Elizabeth George Foundation, and Poets & Writers. She is the recipient of the 2016 Drinking Gourd Chapbook Prize for Nowhere to Arrive, and her poems appear or are forthcoming in The New RepublicTin HouseHarvard ReviewThe Literary ReviewNarrative, and elsewhere. She lives in Brooklyn and teaches at New York University.


Juan Felipe Herrera is currently serving his second term as Poet Laureate of the United States. He served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 2011 to 2016. His numerous honors include the L.A. Times Book Prize’s Robert Kirsch Award (for lifetime achievement), the PEN/Beyond Margins Award, and the Americas Award, as well as fellowships from the Breadloaf Writers’ Conference, the California Arts Council, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Stanford Chicano Fellows Program, and the University of California at Berkeley. Over the past three decades, he has founded a number of performance ensembles, and has taught poetry, art, and performance in community art galleries and correctional facilities. He is the author of many collections of poetry, including Notes on the Assemblage (City Lights, 2015); Senegal Taxi (University of Arizona Press, 2013); Half of the World in Light: New and Selected Poems (University of Arizona Press, 2008); 187 Reasons Mexicanos Can’t Cross The Border: Undocuments 1971–2007 (City Lights, 2007); and Crashboomlove (University of New Mexico Press, 1999).


The Academy of American Poets is the nation’s largest membership-based nonprofit organization fostering an appreciation for contemporary poetry and supporting American poets. The organization produces, National Poetry Month, the popular Poem-a-Day series, American Poets magazine, resources for K-12 educators, an annual series of poetry readings and special events, and the Academy of American Poets Prizes, a suite of major awards that recognize emerging and established poets.


Located in a fifteenth century castle in the Umbrian region of Italy, Civitella Ranieri Center is a workplace for international writers, composers, and visual artists. Since 1995, Civitella has hosted more than six hundred Fellows and Director’s Guests. In keeping with the spirit of its founder, Ursula Corning, and the tradition of hospitality and support for the arts that she established at the castle, the Center enables its Fellows to pursue their work and to exchange ideas in a unique and inspiring setting. For more information, visit