Marwa Helal (author of Invasive species
) and Xandria Phillips (author of Hull
) are both 2021 Whiting Awards winners!
Since 1985, the Whiting Foundation has supported creative writing through the Whiting Awards, given annually to ten emerging writers in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama. The awards, of $50,000 each, are based on early accomplishment and the promise of great work to come. The prizes are designed to recognize excellence and promise in a spectrum of emerging talent, giving most winners their first chance to devote themselves full-time to their own writing, or to take bold new risks in their work.
“The poems of Marwa Helal are not only marvelously various in form, but emotionally epiphanic. We feel the powerful yearning and resolve in her work, which layers natural, cultural, and even typographic landscapes; her acrobatic syntax amplifies and refracts meaning. She has titled her collection Invasive species, and these poems investigate not only ecological or political phenomena but a powerful poetic identity. The passionate personality of the artist shines through, and we grasp the urgency of her search for the just.”
“Reveling in brevity and lushness, Xandria Phillips’s poems feel revolutionary: formally superb, but with a constant tilting of expectation in image and phrase. Phillips writes about intimacy as intimately as possible, writes about pain as painfully as possible, writes about joy as joyfully as possible. These poems aren’t afraid to get messy, with risky extended similes and unresolved contradictions. We feel the body’s sexuality, but also its vulnerability; we feel its history of violation, but also its resistance of those violations through the making of meaning; we feel its capacity to love, and its capacity to give.”
—The 2021 Whiting Awards judges