This year’s award goes to Jeffrey Yang, author of An Aquarium (Graywolf Press).

The PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award for Poetry of $5,000 is given in odd-numbered years and recognizes the high literary character of the published work to date of a new and emerging American poet of any age and the promise of further literary achievement.

2009 Judges

Chris Abani, Linda Gregg, Matthew Zapruder

From the Judges’ Citation

“Jeffrey Yang’s masterful first book, An Aquarium, exhibits an almost archaic pleasure-taking in the sounds and textures of words, combined with a postmodern speed. The quickness with which this poet can shift among eras of human history, civilizations, and languages is graceful, exhilarating, dizzying. The (mostly) short poems of the book are organized alphabetically and mostly titled after sea creatures (“Abalone,” “Barnacle,” “Lionfish,” “Manatee,” “Tarpon,” “Zhi-fish”), though with significant exceptions (“Aristotle,” “Google,” “Intelligent Design,” “Rexroth,” “Vacuum”). The combination in An Aquarium of language play, tongue-in-cheek wisdom, fascination with archaic and specific realms of knowledge, and a sincere and committed compassion culminates in the final poem of the book, “Zooxanthellae,” which takes as a great part of its subject the effect of nuclear tests on the indigenous peoples of Bikini Atoll and other islands. The very moving and powerful statement of this book is its highly unusual and unapologetic joining of pure pleasure in language and ideas to an engagement with the troubles of the world.”

Past Winners

Nick Flynn, Richard Matthews, Dana Levin, and Yerra Sugarman