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 Billy Collins.
The driving values of the series and the prize are consonant with Williams’s sense of what constitutes good poetry. In his practice as a poet and his work as an editor, Williams favored poetry that showed an awareness of its reader, poetry that was plain spoken but also dealt with the most essential experiences of being human. He also preferred poems that were interested in making the reader feel something rather than poems that were just expressing the plight of the poet. And a bit of humor never hurt, especially if it issued forth from a sensibility that couldn’t help viewing the world from an ironic angle.
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
Billy Collins is the author of eleven collections of poetry. A distinguished professor of English at Lehman College of the City University of New York and a distinguished fellow at the Winter Park Institute of Rollins College, he was poet laureate of the United States from 2001 to 2003 and poet laureate of the state of New York from 2004 to 2006.
Collins’s relationship with the Press began in 1988, when his first book of poetry, The Apple that Astonished Paris, was published by the press under the directorship of Miller Williams. Apple remains one of the press’s best-selling books. In the preface to the second edition, Collins credits Williams with being the first person to endorse him and calls Williams his “first editorial father.”