Milkweed Editions has created a poetry prize to honor a young poet who died just before the Minneapolis-based literary nonprofit press published his debut collection.
The press announced Thursday that it is partnering with the Alan B. Slifka Foundation, a private family foundation based in New York City, to launch the Max Ritvo Poetry Prize. Ritvo died of cancer, at 25, less than a month before Milkweed published his critically-acclaimed debut collection, Four Reincarnations, in September 2016. PW gave Four Reincarnations a starred review, declaring that its poems "sizzle over the all-too-brief fire of [Ritvo's] hungry and staggering imagination.”
The prize will be awarded annually to an author of a debut collection of poems. This year’s recipient will receive $10,000 and his or her collection will be published in April 2018, making it, a Milkweed noted, the most lucrative first-book prize offered in this country by an independent literary press.
Submissions for the inaugural prize will be accepted by Milkweed between July 1 and August 31. The winner will be announced on December 1. The final judge for this year's prize is the poet Henri Cole, who has chosen five first readers to assist him in determining the winner: Ruth Awad, Graham Barnhart, Lauren Cook, Allison Pitinii Davis, and Jordan Zandi.
In a release, Milkweed publisher and CEO Daniel Slager said: “Max Ritvo came into the Milkweed family like a ball of fire last year, and publishing Four Reincarnations has been profoundly energizing for us all. I can think of no better way to honor Max and his legacy than a first-book poetry prize, which will honor outstanding accomplishment in the art form he excelled in, enriching American letters for years to come.”