Williams, Greenidge Win Whiting Awards
Visiting faculty member Phillip B. Williams has won a Whiting Award for his debut book of poems, Thief In The Interior. MFA faculty member Kaitlyn Greenidge won for her debut novel, We Love You, Charlie Freeman.
The Whiting Awards, established by the Whiting Foundation in 1985, are one of the most esteemed and largest monetary gifts for emerging writers, and are based on the criteria of early-career achievement and the promise of superior literary work to come.
The selection committee on Williams' work
Beauty and urgency meet in these poems, which fiercely seek new ways to protest, witness, and grieve the violence done daily to black men’s bodies. Williams mines fable in poems that follow the trajectory of thought—where and why it begins, how it changes. Williams’ poems are deeply alive to the sensuousness of both the world and the word. His language is rich, musical, and precise, his approach to form at once elegant and adventurous, his apprehension of the natural world radiantly strange.
Williams builds a kind of gothic vision that is utterly his own; love and death are the lifespring of his verse. The collision of popular culture and mythical gods produces a mash-up of universal truths, mortality, and what it means to be human.
The selection committee on Greenidge:
If the lifeblood of writing is engaging with ideas, then Kaitlyn Greenidge’s work is coursing with thundering vitality. At times funny, at other times outrageous, she has an eye for the collision between the mundane and the tragic. What at first seems to be a coming-of-age novel is imbued with the suspense of a psychological thriller. We Love You, Charlie Freeman is a hugely ambitious book about family, history, and the ways in which narratives are reshaped by time and self-interest.
Greenidge is at work on a broader underlying story: our inability to find a common language for a discussion of race in America. The sense you get is that she’s nowhere near her full powers yet, and the prospect is thrilling.
Alumna Safiya Sinclair ’10 won the 2016 Whiting Award for poetry for her work, Cannibal. Other previous winners include alumnae Gretel Ehrlich ’67 and Mary Ruefle ’74, and MFA faculty members Major Jackson and Peter Trachtenberg.