Ansel Elkins has been selected as the winner of the 2014 Yale Younger Poets Prize. The competition is among the oldest literary awards in the U.S.
Elkins’ manuscript “Blue Yodel” was selected by judge Carl Phillips, who praised her work in a release. “Through her arresting use of persona, in particular, Ansel Elkins reminds us of the pivotal role of compassion in understanding others and — more deeply and often more disturbingly — our various inner selves,” he said. “Razor-edged in their intelligence, southern gothic in their sensibility, these poems enter the strangenesses of others and return us to a world at once charged, changed, brutal, and luminous.”
Her poem “Blues for the Death of the Sun” is online at Guernica. It begins:
The evening sun descended with the decorum of an old man
Who removes his wide brimmed hat as a funeral march passes.
August. The rivers are rising. We saw the sun vanish from our sky.
Like crows, the people of my town walk the streets, faces skyward
Searching for light as for the face of a mother.
From the ground ferns spring, fronds greening with hunger.
The river reeks of gasoline burning in her current.
Somewhere in the blackening hills a peacock hollers his blue yodel.
Your hands aint wings, a passing stranger tells me.
The sky has taken away light.
Elkins’ manuscript “Blue Yodel” will be published by Yale University Press in 2015. Previous Yales Series of Younger Poets Prize winners include Adrienne Rich, John Ashbery and Robert Hass.
Elkins is a recipient of several other awards, including the North American Review James Hearst Poetry Prize, the Fugue Poetry Prize, the “Discovery”/Boston Review Poetry Prize, and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry.