Jose Padua and Jess Willard

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Jose Padua has won the 2019 Miller Williams Poetry Prize for his collection A Short History of Monsters. A finalist was also named: Jess Williard for his collection Unmanly Grief. Padua and Williard were selected by former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins. The University of Arkansas Press will publish both books, and Padua will receive a $5,000 cash prize in addition to publication.

The prize and series are named in honor of Miller Williams, an acclaimed poet, the founding director of the University of Arkansas Press, and a long-time professor in the U of A creative writing program. In 1988 the press published Billy Collins’ debut collection, The Apple that Astonished Paris, under Williams’ directorship.

Padua’s poems appear regularly in the online journal Vox Populi. He is a  veteran of the spoken word and downtown New York literary scene and has spent the last 10 years living in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.

Jess Williard’s poems, stories, essays and reviews have appeared in a variety of publications, including Poetry Northwest, Third Coast, North American Review, Colorado Review, Southern Humanities Review, Poet Lore, Oxford Poetry and many others. Willard is from Wisconsin.

The two books will be launched at the Association of Writers and Writer’s Programs meeting in Portland, Oregon, in March 2019.

Guiding his editorial decision, Collins said in his series editor’s preface for the 2019 books that he chose manuscripts that Miller Williams “would enjoy reading for their own merits,” and not for their similarity to Williams’s own poems. Collins also said that Williard wrote “natural sounding poems that lead us to striking insights and strange destinations” and that beneath the surface of Padua’s “lively, soulful poems” there was “a smart, sympathetic mind at work.”

About the University of Arkansas Press: The University of Arkansas Press advances the mission of the University of Arkansas by publishing peer-reviewed scholarship and literature of enduring value. The Press publishes books by authors of diverse backgrounds writing for specialty as well as general audiences in Arkansas and throughout the world.

About the Miller Williams Poetry Prize: Every year, the University of Arkansas Press accepts submissions for the Miller Williams Poetry Series and from the books selected awards the $5,000 Miller Williams Poetry Prize in the following summer. For almost a quarter century the press has made this series the cornerstone of its work as a publisher of some of the country’s best new poetry.