March 8, 2012 Poet Laureate Chooses L.S. Asekoff and Sheila Black for Witter Bynner Award and Reading, April 5

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Poet Laureate Philip Levine has chosen poets L.S. Asekoff and Sheila Black for the 2012 Witter Bynner Fellowships, and will introduce the poets on April 5 at the Library of Congress.

Asekoff and Black will read their poems at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 5, in the Montpelier Room on the sixth floor of the James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C. The event is free and open to the public. No tickets are needed.

Asekoff and Black each will receive a $10,000 fellowship, provided by the Witter Bynner Foundation for Poetry. This is the 15th year the fellowships have been awarded.

Librarian of Congress James H. Billington said, “These fellowships—to poets whose distinctive talents and craftsmanship merit wider recognition—provide a wonderful way for the Laureate, the Library and the Witter Bynner Foundation to encourage poets and poetry.”

Commenting on his selections, Levine said “L.S. Asekoff is a true surreal visionary; in his writing, all time configures itself into a single extended moment which is the poem. In these dramatic monologues, a quiet voice emerges to tell us what we need to know about the ravages of our past and the nightmarish nonsense ahead.”

About Black, he said “She is a consummate poet of memory who seems able to inhabit all the various women she is and has been. The loves and losses of the child, the young woman and the mother are present in these rich lyrics and storied poems. Hers is a poetry of feeling, and the whole panoply of emotions—from love to rage—is present and earned.”

Asekoff is the author of four books of poetry, including “Freedom Hill: A Poem” (2011), “The Gate of Horn” (2010), “North Star” (1997) and “Work” (1993). His poems have appeared in The New Yorker, the American Poetry Review and other publications. He is the recipient of fellowships from both the National Endowment for the Arts (1999) and the New York Foundation for the Arts (1999). Asekoff is a professor of creative writing at Brooklyn College.

Black is the author of two poetry collections: “Love/Iraq” (2009) and “House of Bone” (2007). Recently, Black co-edited, along with Jennifer Bartlett and Mike Northen, the anthology “Beauty is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability” (2011). Her poems have appeared in Blackbird, Cutback, Diode, Puerto Del Sol and other journals. She is the recipient of the Frost-Pellicer Frontera Prize (2000) and resides in New Mexico.

The Witter Bynner fellowships support the writing of poetry. Fellows must commit to organizing a reading in their hometown and participating in a reading and recording session at the Library of Congress. Applications are not taken for the fellowships; the Poet Laureate makes the selection.

The Witter Bynner Foundation for Poetry was incorporated in 1972 in New Mexico to provide grant support for programs in poetry through nonprofit organizations. Witter Bynner was an influential early-20th-century poet and translator of the Chinese classic “Tao Te Ching,” which he named “The Way of Life According to Laotzu.” He traveled with D.H. and Frieda Lawrence and proposed to Edna St. Vincent Millay (she accepted, but then they changed their minds). He worked at McClure=s Magazine, where he published A.E. Housman for the first time in the United States, and was one of O. Henry's early fans.

Previous Witter Bynner fellows include Carol Muske-Dukes and Carl Phillips (1998), David Gewanter, Heather McHugh and Campbell McGrath (1999), and Naomi Shihab Nye and Joshua Weiner (2000), all appointed by Robert Pinsky; the late Tory Dent and Nick Flynn (2001), appointed by Stanley Kunitz; George Bilgere and Katia Kapovich (2002), and Major Jackson and Rebecca Wee (2003), appointed by Billy Collins; Dana Levin and Spencer Reece (2004), appointed by Louise Gluck; Claudia Emerson and Martin Walls (2005), and Joseph Stroud and Connie Wanek (2006), appointed by Ted Kooser; Laurie Lamon and David Tucker (2007), appointed by Donald Hall; Matthew Thorburn and Monica Youn (2008), appointed by Charles Simic; and Christina Davis and Mary Szybist (2009) and Jill McDonough and Atsuro Riley (2010), appointed by Kay Ryan; and Forrest Gander and Robert Bringhurst (2011), appointed by W.S. Merwin.

For further information on Witter Bynner fellowships and the poetry program at the Library of Congress, visit


PR 12-047
ISSN 0731-3527