About the Series
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. The series and prize are named for and operated to honor the cofounder and longtime director of the press, Miller Williams. The series is edited by Patricia Smith.
“I love poems that vivify and disturb,” Smith said. “No matter what genre we write in, we’re all essentially storytellers — but it’s poets who toil most industriously, telling huge unwieldy stories within tight and gorgeously controlled confines, stories that are structurally and sonically adventurous, and it’s magic every time it happens. Simply put, when I read a poetry book, I want something to shift in my chest. I want my world to change.”
About the Prize
The editor of the series serves as the judge for the Miller Williams Poetry Prize. With the help of screeners, he or she awards to four authors publication in the series. This is the most significant award the press can offer: the opportunity for the author’s work to be published with all the dedication and expertise we have to offer. We provide professional copyediting by expert poetry editors, design and production by veteran designers who specialize in the typesetting of verse, and production managed by a house with a history of printing first-rate books. We believe this offers the poet the best possible opportunity to connect with his or her audience in print. This prize goes to all four books selected for the series. Three of the books are announced as finalists for the Miller Williams Poetry Prize. One is further chosen as the winner of the prize and receives $5,000 in cash in addition to publication.
About Miller Williams
Once described to his pleasure as “the Hank Williams of American poetry,” Miller Williams was born in Arkansas’s Lawrence County in 1930. He attended Hendrix College, Arkansas State University, and the University of Arkansas, where he earned a master’s degree in biology. In the meantime, he published his first book of poems, Et Cetera (1952). In 1962, with the help of Flannery O’Connor, he got a job in the English Department at Louisiana State University and founded The New Orleans Review at Loyola University eight years later.
In 1970 he returned to the University of Arkansas to take a position in the Department of English where he was a key figure in the development of the Programs in Creative Writing and Translation, which grew to become one of the most respected MFA programs in the county. Ten years later he cofounded the University of Arkansas Press where he would go on to publish the works of writers such as Frank Stanford, John Williams, Ellen Gilchrist, Robert Mezey, R. S. Thomas, Leon Stokesbury, Billy Collins, Jimmy Carter, and John Ciardi.
Over the course of a teaching and publishing career that lasted four decades, Williams published over a dozen of his own books of poetry and literary theory. Already an extensively accomplished writer, he came to large national acclaim when in 1997 he read his poem “Of History and Hope” at Bill Clinton’s second inauguration.
About the Editor
Patricia Smith is the author of seven books of poetry and the winner of the NAACP Image Award, the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize, a two-time Pushcart Prize winner, a four-time National Poetry Slam champion, and a 2014 Guggenheim fellow, among other honors. Her most recent book is Incendiary Art, published by Northwestern University Press in 2017.