Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) Alumna Layli Long Soldier Receives 2016 Whiting Award in Poetry

Layli Long Soldier

Layli Long Soldier

One of Ten Winners of $ 50,000 

Published March 31, 2016

SANTA FE — IAIA Alumna Layli Long Soldier (Oglala Lakota), was recently awarded the 2015 Whiting Award.  The Whiting Awards are given annually to ten emerging writers of fiction, nonfiction, drama, and poetry — and are based on early accomplishments and the promise of great work to come.

Layli Long Soldier holds a BFA (’09) from the Institute of American Indian Arts and an MFA fromBard College. She has served as a contributing editor of Drunken Boat and is the current poetry editor at Kore Press. Her poems have appeared in The American Poet, The American Reader, The Kenyon Review Online, and others. She is the recipient of the 2015 NACF National Artist Fellowship and a 2015 Lannan Literary Fellowship. Her work of poetry, WHEREAS, will be published by Graywolf Press in 2017. Long Soldier is originally from South Dakota; she is currently based in Tsaile, Arizona, where she is an adjunct faculty member at Diné College.

Layli is not the first Whiting Award winner to come from from IAIA.  Fellow alumni poets James Thomas Stevens ’91 (Mohawk) won the award in 2000, and Sherwin Bitsui ’99 (Navajo) won in 2006.

Chee Brossy (Diné), Alumni & Constituent Relations Manager for IAIA remarked:  “For the size of our college, IAIA is well represented in national literary awards like the Whiting. Layli joins a long list of alumni poets changing the American literary landscape. This says a lot about the strength of our Creative Writing program and the writers who come from it.”

The Whiting Awards, established by the Whiting Foundation in 1985, remains one of the most esteemed and largest monetary gifts ($50,000) to emerging writers, and are based on the criteria of early-career achievement and the promise of superior literary work to come. More than $6.5 million has been awarded to 310 poets, fiction and nonfiction writers, and playwrights to date. “Six brilliant judges looked far and read deeply to settle on our ten winners, and we hope the support and encouragement of the award will free them up to do adventurous work,” said Courtney Hodell, Director of Writers’ Programs.

With the Whiting Awards, the Whiting Foundation hopes to identify exceptional new writers who have yet to make their mark in the literary culture. Though the writers may not necessarily be young (talent may emerge at any age), the grant ideally offers recipients a first opportunity to devote themselves fully to writing, and the recognition has a significant impact. Whiting winners have gone on to win numerous prestigious awards and fellowships, including the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Obie Award, and MacArthur, Guggenheim, and Lannan fellowships, and their work has shaped and advanced literature in this country over the past three decades.

No submissions are accepted; the one hundred nominators who suggest the candidates and the judges who select the winners are all invited by the Foundation, and all work anonymously. The pool of nominators changes annually, and has included writers, professors, editors, agents, critics, booksellers, artistic directors of theaters, dramaturgs, and directors of literary festivals. Winners of the Whiting Award are chosen by a small group of recognized writers, literary scholars, and editors who meet four times during the course of a year to debate the work and select the final ten.

Previous winners include:  David Foster Wallace, Lydia Davis, Mary Karr, Tony Kushner, August Wilson, Jonathan Franzen, Terrance Hayes, and Anthony Marra.
To see the names of the rest of the 2016 winners click here.


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