CHESTERTOWN, MD—Jehanne Dubrow, assistant professor of creative writing and English at Washington College and interim director of the Rose O’Neill Literary House, has won the Poetry Society of America’s 2012 Alice Fay Di Castagnola Award.
Dubrow won the coveted prize, which includes a $1,000 cash award, for her manuscript-in-progress, The Arranged Marriage, her first collection of prose poems, which explores a series of often harrowing episodes in her mother’s early life. The judge was Claudia Rankine, one of the country’s most distinguished poets. Author of four poetry collections and editor of numerous anthologies, Rankine is the Henry G. Lee Professor of English at Pomona College.
“Each poem in Jehanne Dubrow’s manuscript-in-progress translates a form of violence and altogether adds up to a mosaic of assault,” wrote Rankine. “Details in these stunning prose poems are presented like mini still lifes creating patterns of preparation for victimization, retaliation, or escape.”
Dubrow, who will be feted at a dinner for this year’s Poetry Society of America award winners in New York City in May, describes the prize and Rankine’s affirmation of her work as “a tremendous honor. I usually work in traditional forms like sonnets and villanelles, so it’s been a big deal for me to work, for the first time, in prose poems,” she says. “I am really excited that someone like Claudia Rankine, who is so well known for working in these kinds of forms, would think I was doing it well.”
The country’s oldest poetry organization, the Poetry Society of America was founded in 1910 to create a public forum for the advancement, enjoyment and understanding of poetry. Its members have included many of the nation’s most celebrated poets – from Robert Frost and Edna St. Vincent Millay to John Ashbery and Louise Glück.
The Alice Fay Di Castagnola Award is given annually for a manuscript-in-progress of poetry or verse-drama in memory of a benefactor and friend of the Poetry Society of America. It is partially endowed by the estates of Rachel Dalven and Ellen Lamon Anderson.
“What’s cool about this prize is that, when you are working on a manuscript, it is so easy to doubt yourself,” says Dubrow. “It is wonderful and inspiring to have this kind of acknowledgment of a work that feels both concrete and, at the same time, in a state of becoming.”
The Arranged Marriage will be Dubrow’s fifth collection of poetry. Three poems from the collection won last year’s Anna Davidson Rosenberg Prize for Poetry on the Jewish Experience. Her fourth book, Red Army Red, will be published by Northwestern University Press this fall.
Dubrow’s first book, The Hardship Post, won the Three Candles Press Open Book Award in 2009, and her second collection, From the Fever-World, won the Washington Writers’ Publishing House Poetry Competition, also in 2009. Stateside was published by Northwestern University Press in 2010. Finishing Line Press published her chapbook, The Promised Bride, in 2007.
Dubrow’s poetry, creative nonfiction and book reviews have appeared in numerous journals, including Southern Review, The New Republic, Poetry, Ploughshares, The Hudson Review, The New England Review, West Branch, Gulf Coast, Blackbird, Copper Nickel and Prairie Schooner.
Her many honors include an Individual Artist’s Award from the Maryland State Arts Council, a Walter E. Dakin Fellowship and Howard Nemerov Poetry Scholarship from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and a Sosland Foundation Fellowship from the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.