Whitaker takes prestigious prize in poetry
"The Blue Hour" wins 2016 Brittingham Prize in Poetry
UNCG English Professor and Director of the University Writing Center Jennifer Whitaker has won the 2016 Brittingham Prize in Poetry for her manuscript “The Blue Hour.”
Since 1985 the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of English has awarded the Brittingham Prize annually to the best book-length manuscripts of poetry, as selected by nationally recognized poets. Denise Duhamel chose the 2016 winner.
“The Blue Hour” is steeped in the fairy tale motifs that she developed a passion for as a graduate student. But unlike pop-culture fairy tales, “The Blue Hour” promises no happy endings. Her poems often meditate on remorse, familial abuse and incest.
“Fairy tales are my way of dealing with that complexity,” Whitaker said. “Fairy tales are the container that I try to pour these stories and difficulties into.”
Whitaker said that many of the concepts explored in “The Blue Hour” are ones that she had experimented with as a graduate student in UNCG’s MFA program in Creative Writing.
She adds that the creative writing faculty fostered a sense of community between the students, which gave her the support she needed as an aspiring poet.
“Being in the MFA program taught what it’s like to be in a community of writers,” Whitaker said. “It was supportive, so I could fight against my worst nature to stay holed up in my apartment and write.”
UNCG alumni have won the Brittingham Prize in Poetry for the past two years. Christina Stoddard, another graduate of UNCG’s Creative Writing MFA program, won the 2015 Brittingham Prize for her manuscript, “Hive.”
For Whitaker, winning the Brittingham is one of the greatest achievements in her career so far.
Whitaker said, “Overwhelmed is an understatement.”