It is World Poetry Day 21 March, and we take this opportunity to announce the winners of our Sexton Poetry Prize, for the best unpublished poetry collection by an American poet. The prize is now $1,500 USD, and also comes with publication by Eyewear, and distribution in the UK, Ireland and the USA.
Our past winners were selected by Don Share and Kimiko Hahn, and in our third year, our judge has been just as distinguished - Pulitzer-winning critic, the poet Professor Lloyd Schwartz.
This year our judge has decided to select joint winners, who are happy to accept the shared accolades. They are Ross White and Sarah Bridgins, bios below, after the judge's statetement. Congratulations to these brilliant winners. We also wish to thank all the superb shortlisted poets.
Sexton Prize, A Note from the Judge
What a pleasure it has been reading the submissions for Eyewear’s Sexton Prize. Among the twelve finalists, any one of the manuscripts could have made a plausible winner. These entries were all intelligent, ambitious, serious, formally intriguing, often witty, and often quite moving.
But two remarkable manuscripts distinctly stood out for me: Ross White’s Charm Offensive and Sarah Bridgins’ Death and Exes. And after reading and re-reading them many times, I couldn’t choose one over the other. Each one deserves publication and each one deserves first prize.
Perhaps, as Ross White says in the title of his introductory poem, “I Like Too Many Things.” But in both cases, while these books are very different from one another, what they had in common was a truly individual and convincing voice.
Every word seemed personal and deeply felt, as if both of these poets urgently needed to tell me what they were thinking. Not a single poem in either of these collections ended where I expected it to—as if each writer was engaged in the process of discovering in the course of a poem what it was they each had to say, not just merely producing good poems that sounded like other good poems. And both of these poets have their own quirkily humorous and ironic view of the world, and of themselves.
I admired them for seeming to take their poems more seriously than they took themselves. Nothing in either of these books feels either effortful or over-simplified, or predictable.
Elizabeth Bishop once wrote that the poetry she liked best shared the qualities of “accuracy, spontaneity, mystery.” I found those qualities in both of these collections, and I am very pleased to have both Ross White and Sarah Bridgins share first prize.
My congratulations. — Lloyd Schwartz
Ross White's poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Poetry Daily, and Tin House, among others. He is the Director of Bull City Press, a small, independent publisher, the Associate Director of the Frost Place Conference on Poetry, and Editor of Four Way Review. He lives in Durham and teaches at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Sarah Bridgins' work has appeared in Tin House, BuzzFeed, Bustle, Joyland, Entropy, Fanzine, and Big Lucks among other journals. Bridgins is a four time Pushcart Prize nominee. She is the cofounder of the Ditmas Lit reading series. She lives in Brooklyn with her two cats Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson.