2012 PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry
The PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry, established by a bequest from Hunce Voelcker, this award is given to a poet whose distinguished and growing body of work to date represents a notable and accomplished presence in American literature. The poet honored by the award is one for whom the exceptional promise seen in earlier work has been fulfilled, and who continues to mature with each successive volume of poetry. The award is given in even-numbered years and carries a stipend of $5,000.
Read an excerpt fromThe Undertaker’s Daughter
Dan Chiasson, Aracelis Girmay, and A. Van Jordan
From the Judges’ Citation
“We are very proud to name Toi Derricotte the winner of this year’s PEN/Voelcker Award. Derricotte is the author of five books of poetry: The Undertaker’s Daughter; Tender; Captivity; Natural Birth; The Empress of the Death House; and the literary memoir, The Black Notebooks. Her poems carry both truth and a higher knowledge in scenes of everyday life, consistently depicted through taut language. And her voice is, at once, tender and unflinching. A voice that she has honed over her long career from poem to poem and book to book as she investigates a distinctly American psyche rendered by experiences of race, color, gender, and grief, however blatant, however nuanced. The poems remind readers that personal and societal histories intersect sometimes in the most brutal, the most tender, and the most surprising of ways. In Tender she writes, “‘At the still point of the turning world,’ the job of the artist is not to resolve or beautify, but to hold complexities, to see and make clear.” Derricotte’s poems push readers and practitioners into the hard work of seeing with rigor, intelligence, and grace. Her intellect and her imagination continue to forge new territory in the field of poetry, challenging what we think a poem might be and what we think it might do in the world.”