We are thrilled to announce Danez Smith as the twenty-sixth annual John C. Zacharis First Book Award for their book of poetry [insert] boy (2014, YesYes Books). The $1,500 award, which is named after a former president of Emerson College, honors the best debut book by a Ploughshares writer and alternates annually between poetry and fiction.
This year’s judge was John Skoyles, Ploughshares’ poetry editor. In choosing the book, Skoyles said: “The powerful perceptions in Danez Smith’s [insert] boy are matched by its powerful language. When we enter this book, we enter a world; when we hear its voice, it is not that of one person, but a range of people. The content is both unified and singular, and the variety of forms, each shaped to perfectly contain its subject, is dazzling.”
[insert] boy started off as Smith’s senior thesis at University of Wisconsin, and they kept working on it after graduation. “I knew I wanted to speak to different kinds of ‘boyness’ that I existed in, and was having trouble figuring out what the book was or need to be until [insert] boy sorta came out of nowhere and stuck.”
A full profile of Smith appears in the Winter 2016-2017 issue of Ploughshares.
About Danez Smith
Smith is the winter of the 2016 Kate Tufts Discovery Award and the 2014 Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry. They are a 2014 Ruth Lilly-Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellow, a Cave Canem and VONA alum, and a recipient of a McKnight Foundation Fellowship.
Their work has been published in Poetry Magazine, Beloit Poetry Journal, and other publications. Smith’s second collection of poems, Don’t Call Us Dead, is forthcoming from Graywolf Press in September 2017.