Levis Reading Prize
Kaveh Akbar is the winner of the 2018 Levis Reading Prize for his poetry collection Calling a Wolf a Wolf.
Awarded by the Department of English and its MFA in Creative Writing program at Virginia Commonwealth University, the prize is given annually in the name of the late Larry Levis for the best first or second book of poetry published in the previous calendar year. Mr. Akhbar will receive an award of $5000 and will read from his prize-winning work at 7 p.m. on October 8, 2018 in Richmond at the VCU Cabell Library. This event is free and open to the public.
Akbar is the author of two books of poetry: his debut full-length collection, Calling a Wolf a Wolf (Alice James Books, 2017), and a chapbook, Portrait of the Alcoholic (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2017). His poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry, American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, Tin House, and elsewhere. Akbar was a recipient of the Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship in 2016. He is a visiting assistant professor of poetry at Purdue University.
General Award Information
The Levis Reading Prize is presented on behalf of VCU’s M.F.A. in Creative Writing Program. Sponsors include the VCU Department of English, the VCU Libraries, Barnes & Noble @ VCU and the VCU College of Humanities and Sciences, with additional funding provided by the family of Larry Levis. The prize honors the memory of poet Larry Levis who served on the creative writing faculty at VCU at the time of his death in 1996.
Entries may be submitted by either author or publisher, and must include three copies of the book (48 pages or more), a cover letter, and a brief biography of the author including previous publications. (Entries from vanity presses or self-publishing entities are not eligible.) The book must have been published in North America in the previous calendar year. Entrants wishing acknowledgment of receipt must include a self-addressed stamped postcard.
The annual entry deadline is now February 1st. Materials received after that date will be returned unopened. Because we cannot guarantee their return, all entries will become the property of the VCU Department of English.
Judges come from faculty of the VCU Department of English and MFA Program in Creative Writing.
The winner receives an honorarium of $5000 and are invited, expenses paid, to Richmond to present a public reading in the following fall.
To enter, please send materials to:
Levis Reading Prize
VCU Department of English
900 Park Avenue, Hibbs Hall, Room 306
Richmond, VA 23284-2005
For further information, contact Caitlin Etherton, Levis Fellow.
Previous Levis Prize Winners
20th Annual Levis Reading Prize
Solmaz Sharif for Look
Solmaz Sharif won the 2017 Levis Reading Prize for her poetry collection Look.
Born in Istanbul to Iranian parents, Sharif holds degrees from U.C. Berkeley and New York University. Her work has appeared in The New Republic, Poetry, The Kenyon Review, jubilat, Gulf Coast, Boston Review, Witness and others. She is a former managing director of the Asian American Writers' Workshop, and she is currently a lecturer at Stanford University. Published by Graywolf Press in 2016, Look was also a finalist for the National Book Award. Photo by Arash Saedina.
19th Annual Levis Reading Prize
Rickey Laurentiis for Boy with Thorn
Rickey Laurentiis won the 2016 Levis Reading Prize for his poetry collection, Boy with Thorn.
Boy with Thorn was also selected by Terrance Hayes for the 2014 Cave Canem Poetry Prize and named one of the “Top 16 Best Poetry Books” by BuzzFeed. Laurentiis was the recipient of a 2013 Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and a 2012 Ruth Lilly Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation. His other honors include fellowships or scholarships from the Atlantic Center for the Arts, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Cave Canem Foundation, the Civitella Ranieri Foundation in Italy, as well as the Alonzo Davis Fellowship from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and a Chancellor’s Graduate Fellowship from Washington University in St Louis, where he received his MFA in Writing. Photo by Rachel Eliza Griffiths
18th Annual Levis Reading Prize
Sandra Lim for The Wilderness
Sandra Lim won of the 2015 Levis Reading Prize for her poetry collection, The Wilderness.
Lim is the author of The Wilderness (W.W. Norton, 2014), selected by Louise Glück for the 2013 Barnard Women Poets Prize, and a previous collection of poetry, Loveliest Grotesque (Kore Press, 2006). Her poetry and essays have recently appeared in Boston Review, Guernica, VOLT, MiPOesias, and the 2015 edition of The Pushcart Prize. She is a recipient of fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the Vermont Studio Center, and the Getty Research Institute and is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell.
This year the Prize Committee also recognized two additional finalists for their outstanding books: Jericho Brown for his collection The New Testament (Copper Canyon Press, 2014) and Rose McLarney for her collection Its Day Being Gone (Penguin, 2014). Photo by Young Suh
17th Annual Levis Reading Prize
Roger Reeves for King Me
Roger Reeves’ collection, King Me, won the 17th annual Levis Reading Prize from Virginia Commonwealth University for the best first or second book of poetry published in 2013.
Poems by Roger Reeves have appeared in Best American Poetry, Poetry, Ploughshares, American Poetry Review, Boston Review, Tin House, and the 2014 edition of The Pushcart Prize. Copper Canyon Press published King Me, his first book of poems, in 2013. He has been awarded a 2014-2015 Hodder Fellowship from Princeton University, a 2013 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship, and a 2008 Ruth Lilly Fellowship. Reeves is an assistant professor in the Department of English at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
The Prize Committee would also like to recognize the outstanding books of two additional finalists: Maria Hummel for her collection House and Fire (Copper Canyon Press, 2013), and Brian Russell for The Year of What Now (Graywolf Press, 2013). Photo by Rachel Eliza Griffiths
16th Annual Levis Reading Prize
Michael McGriff for Home Burial
Michael McGriff’s collection, Home Burial, won the 16th annual Levis Reading Prize from Virginia Commonwealth University for the best first or second book of poetry published in 2012.
McGriff is the author of two books of poetry, Home Burial (Copper Canyon Press, 2012) and Dismantling the Hills (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2008). His other books include an edition of David Wevill’s essential writings, To Build My Shadow a Fire (Truman State University Press, 2010), and a co-translation of Tomas Tranströmer’s The Sorrow Gondola (Green Integer Books, 2010). His poetry, translations, and essays have appeared in numerous publications, including American Poetry Review, Bookforum, Slate, Narrative, and The Believer. He has received a Lannan Literary Fellowship, a Stegner Fellowship, and a National Endowment for the Arts Literary Fellowship. He lives in Portland, Oregon, where he edits Tavern Books, a publishing house devoted to poetry in translation and the revival of out-of-print books.
The Prize Committee would also like to recognize the outstanding books of three additional finalists, Catherine Barnett for her collection The Game of Boxes (Graywolf Press, 2012), Traci Brimhall for Our Lady of the Ruins (W.W. Norton & Company, 2012), Eduardo C. Corral for Slow Lightning (Yale University Press, 2012), and Matthew Dickman for Mayakovsky’s Revolver (W.W. Norton & Company, 2012). Photo by David Newkirk
15th Annual Levis Reading Prize
Katherine Larson for Radial Symmetry
Radial Symmetry by Katherine Larson was selected as the winner of the 2012 Levis Reading Prize for the best first or second book of poetry published in the calendar year 2011.
Larson’s Radial Symmetry (Yale University Press, 2011) was also selected by Louise Glück as the winner of the Yale Series of Younger Poets. Larsen’s work has appeared in AGNI, Boulevard,The Kenyon Review, The Massachusetts Review, Poetry, and Poetry Northwest, among other publications. She is the recipient of a Ruth Lilly Fellowship, the Union League Civic and Arts Foundation Poetry Prize and the Kate Tufts Discovery Award. In addition to her literary career, Larson has worked as a molecular biologist and field ecologist. She lives in Arizona with her husband and daughter. Photo by Peter Lipa.
14th Annual Levis Reading Prize
Nick Lantz for We Don’t Know We Don’t Know
We Don’t Know We Don’t Know by Nick Lantz was selected as the winner of the 2011 Levis Reading Prize, awarded in the name of the late Larry Levis for the best first or second book of poetry published in the calendar year 2009.
Nick Lantz is the author of two recent collections of poetry. We Don’t Know We Don’t Know (Graywolf Press, 2010) won the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference Bakeless Prize, the Great Lakes Colleges Association New Writers Award, and the Council for Wisconsin Writers Posner Book-Length Poetry Award. The Lightning That Strikes the Neighbors’ House (University of Wisconsin Press, 2010) was selected by former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky for the Felix Pollak Prize. Lantz has received fellowships from the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and his work has appeared in Mid-American Review, Prairie Schooner, Gulf Coast, Indiana Review, Poetry Daily, and FIELD, and has been featured on the nationally syndicated radio program The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor. He has taught creative writing at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Tinker Mountain Writers’ Workshop, Queens University Low-Residency MFA, and Gettysburg College where he was the 2010-2011 Emerging Writer Lecturer. In fall 2011, he will join the faculty at Franklin and Marshall Colleges. Photo by Vicky Lantz
13th Annual Levis Reading Prize
Peter Campion for The Lions
The Lions by Peter Campion was selected as the winner of the 2010 Levis Reading Prize, awarded in the name of the late Larry Levis for the best first or second book of poetry published in the calendar year 2009.
Peter Campion is the author of two collections of poetry, Other People (2005) and The Lions(2009), both from the University of Chicago Press. He also published a monograph on the painter Mitchell Johnson in 2004, with Terrence Rogers Fine Art. His poems and prose have appeared recently in “ArtNews”, “The Boston Globe”, “Modern Painters”, “The New York Times”, “The New Republic”, “Poetry”, “Slate”, and “The Yale Review”. Campion has received a George Starbuck Lectureship at Boston University, a Wallace Stegner Fellowship and Jones Lectureship at Stanford University, a Pushcart Prize, and a Civitella Ranieri Individual Artist’s Fellowship. He is an Assistant Professor in the English Department at Auburn University and edits the journal Literary Imagination, which is published by Oxford University Press. Photo by Amy Campion
12th Annual Levis Reading Prize
Katie Ford for Colosseum
Colosseum by Katie Ford was selected as the winner of the 2009 Levis Reading Prize, awarded in the name of the late Larry Levis for the best first or second book of poetry published in the calendar year 2008.
Katie Ford is the author ofDeposition and Colosseum, (Graywolf Press), and a chapbook,Storm (Marick Press).Colosseum was named a “Best Book of 2008” by Publishers Weekly and among the “Top Ten Books of Poetry in 2008” by Virginia Quarterly Review. Her poems have appeared in The Paris Review, The American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, Pleiades, and Seneca Review, and are forthcoming fromSmartish Pace, Bayou, and The New Yorker. Ford is the recipient of a Lannan Literary Fellowship. She teaches at Franklin & Marshall College and lives in Philadelphia with her husband, the novelist Josh Emmons. Photo by K. Ford
Eleventh Annual Levis Reading Prize 2008
Matthew Donovan for Vellum
Vellum by Matthew Donovan was selected as the winner of the 2008 Levis Reading Prize, awarded in the name of the late Larry Levis for the best first or second book of poetry published in the calendar year 2007.
Vellum was published by Mariner Books. Donovan is the winner of the 2006 Katherine Bakeless Nason Prize for poetry, selected by Mark Doty and awarded by Middlebury College and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. His poems have appeared in several journals, including Poetry, Agni, theGettysburg Review, and the Kenyon Review. He received his MFA from New York University and in 2004 was awarded a literature fellowship from the National Endowment of the Arts. He is currently an assistant professor of creative writing at the College of Santa Fe and lives in New Mexico with his wife and son. Photo by Ligia Bouton
Tenth Annual Levis Reading Prize 2007
Joshua Weiner for From the Book of Giants
From the Book of Giants by Joshua Weiner was selected as the winner of the Tenth Annual Levis Reading Prize, awarded in the name of the late Larry Levis for the best first or second book of poetry published in the calendar year 2006.
From the Book of Giants was published by The University of Chicago Press. Weiner is the author of The World’s Room. He is the recent recipient of the Rome Prize in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters and a Whiting Writers’ Award. He has published poems and prose in Best American Poetry, the Nation, the American Scholar, New York Review of Books, Chicago Tribune, Threepenny Review, TriQuarterly, Chicago Review, Boston Review, Yale Review, Slate, and elsewhere. Weiner has written poems about the need for music, the fear of fatherhood, the fear of a beloved child growing up and disappearing. His poems employ formal conventions in unexpected ways, and they have a searching quality about them, a vivid clarity. Photo by Ralph Alswang
Ninth Annual Levis Reading Prize 2006
Ron Slate for The Incentive of the Maggot
The Incentive of the Maggot by Ron Slate was selected as the winner of the Ninth Annual Levis Reading Prize, awarded in the name of the late Larry Levis for the best first or second book of poetry published in the calendar year 2005.
The Incentive of the Maggot was published by Houghton Mifflin. Ron Slate is the winner of the 2004 Katharine Bakeless Nason Prize for poetry, selected by former U. S. poet laureate Robert Pinsky and awarded by Middlebury College and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. He is a graduate of the Stanford University writing program and was the editor of the Chowder Reviewfrom 1973-1988. In more than twenty-five years in corporate business, he has been vice president of global communications for a major computer technology company and chief operating officer of a biotech start-up. He lives in Milton, Massachusetts. Photo by George Disario.
Eighth Annual Levis Reading Prize 2005
Spencer Reese for The Clerk’s Tale
The Clerk’s Tale by Spencer Reece was selected as the winner of the Eighth Annual Levis Reading Prize, awarded in the name of the late Larry Levis for the best first or second book of poetry published in the calendar year 2004.
The Clerk’s Tale was published by Houghton Mifflin. Spencer Reece is the winner of the 2003 Katharine Bakeless Nason Prize for poetry, selected by the U. S. poet laureate Louise Glück and awarded by Middlebury College and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. Reece was born in 1963 in Hartford, Connecticut. His poems have appeared in The New Yorker,Boulevard, and small magazines in Canada, Australia, and Britain. The Clerk’s Tale was fifteen years in the making. Reece is an assistant manager at Brooks Brothers in Palm Beach Gardens. He lives in Juno Beach, Florida. Photo by Carol Watson
Seventh Annual Levis Reading Prize
David Daniel for Seven-Star Bird
Seven-Star Bird by David Daniel was selected as the winner of the Seventh Annual Levis Reading Prize, awarded in the name of the late Larry Levis for the best first or second book of poetry published in the calendar year 2003.
Seven-Star Bird was published by Graywolf Press and is Mr. Daniel’s first full-length collection. He is the poetry editor of Ploughsharesmagazine. His poems and reviews have appeared in numerous journals, including Agni, Harvard Review, the Literary Review, Post Road, and Witness. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with his wife and their sons. Photo by Melissa Frost
Sixth Annual Levis Reading Prize
Susan Aizenberg for Muse
Muse by Susan Aizenberg was selected as the winner of the Sixth Annual Levis Reading Prize, awarded in the name of the late Larry Levis for the best first or second book of poetry published in the calendar year 2002.
Muse, a finalist in the Crab Orchard Award Series in Poetry for 2002, was published by Southern Illinois University Press. It is Ms. Aizenberg’s first full-length collection. She is the coeditor (with Erin Belieu) of The Extraordinary Tide: New Poetry by American Women, a contributing editor to theNebraska Review, and author of a chapbook-length collection of poems, Peru, which appears inTake Three: 2: AGNI New Poets Series. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Journal,AGNI, Chelsea, Prairie Schooner, and the Philadelphia Inquirer. Aizenberg is currently an assistant professor of English and creative writing at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. Photo by Denise Brady
Fifth Annual Levis Reading Prize
Steve Scafidi for Sparks from a Nine-Pound Hammer
Fourth Annual Levis Reading Prize
Nick Flynn for Some Ether
Third Annual Levis Reading Prize
Joel Brouwer for Exactly What Happened
Second Annual Levis Reading Prize
Sandra Alcosser for Except by Nature
First Annual Levis Reading Prize
Belle Waring for Dark Blonde
David Wojahn, Director of Creative Writing
Thom Didato, Graduate Programs Advisor