Announcing the winner of the 2018 Shelley Memorial Award, Ntozake Shange

The Poetry Society of America is honored to announce that Ntozake Shange has been selected as the 2018 recipient of the Shelley Memorial Award by Dorianne Laux and Harryette Mullen.


Established by the will of the late Mary P. Sears in 1929 and given by nomination only, the Shelley Memorial Award is awarded to a living American poet, selected with reference to his or her genius and need.

Previous winners of this award have included Kimiko Hahn, Lyn Hejinian, Angela Jackson, Yusef Komunyakaa, James McMichael, Alice Notley, Ron Padgett, Ed Roberson, George Stanley, and Gary Young.

Ntozake Shange is an American poet, playwright, and novelist. Her poem "What Do You Believe A Poem Shd Do?" was featured in Poetry in Motion in 2015. Her play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf (1975) is a unique blend of poetry, music, dance and drama called a "choreopoem," which "took the theatre world by storm" in 1975, as noted Jacqueline Trescott in the Washington Post. Shange's next productions, A Photograph: A Study of Cruelty (1977), Boogie Woogie Landscapes (1977), Spell No. 7 (1979) and Black and White Two Dimensional Planes (1979) impressed critics with their poetic quality.

Shange is the author of several poetry collections, including Nappy Edges (1978), which Washington Post Book World critic Harriet Gilbert praised by saying, "Nothing that Shange writes is ever entirely unreadable, springing, as it does, from such an intense honesty, from so fresh an awareness of the beauty of sound and of vision, from such mastery of words, from such compassion, humor and intelligence."

Shange's critically acclaimed novels include, Sassafrass, Cypress, and Indigo (1982), Betsey Brown (1985), and Liliane: Resurrection of the Daughter (1995). Her other works include The Love Space Demands, a choreopoem published in 1991; The Sweet Breath of Life: A Poetic Narrative of the African-American Family (2004), with photographs by the Kamoinge Workshop; the essay collections See No Evil: Prefaces, Essays, and Accounts 1976-1983 (1984) and If I Can Cook You Know God Can (1999); and four books for children: Whitewash (1997), the tribute to Mohammed Ali Float Like a Butterfly (2002), Ellington Was Not a Street (2003), and Daddy Says (2003). Shange also edited The Beacon Best of 1999, a collection of poems, short stories, and essays written by lesser-known men and women of color.

The Poetry Society of America, the nation's oldest poetry organization, was founded in 1910 for the purpose of creating a public forum for the advancement, enjoyment, and understanding of poetry. Through a diverse array of programs, initiatives, contests, and awards, the PSA works to build a larger audience for poetry, to encourage a deeper appreciation of the art, and to place poetry at the crossroads of American life. The PSA's signature program is Poetry in Motion, featuring poems on transit systems across the country.

 

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