She’s a winner! Solmaz Sharif bags $30,000 Rona Jaffe prize.

Solmaz Sharif

Lots of prizes lately. (Photo: Arash Saedinia)

Poet Solmaz Sharif, Stegner Fellow and current Jones Lecturer at Stanford, will receive a 2014 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer’s Award, given annually to six women writers who demonstrate excellence and promise in the early stages of their careers. The awards have helped many women build successful writing careers by offering encouragement and financial support at a critical time. The $30,000 awards will be presented to the six recipients in New York City on September 18.

Born in Istanbul to Iranian parents, Solmaz holds a B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley, where she studied with June Jordan  and taught with Jordan’s Poetry for the People, and an M.F.A. from New York University. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Poetry, The Kenyon Review, jubilat, Gulf Coast, Boston ReviewWitness, and others.  She is a former managing director of the Asian American Writers’ Workshop. Her work has been recognized with  a “Discovery”/Boston Review Poetry Prize, scholarships from NYU and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, a winter fellowship at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, a 2014 NEA fellowship, and a Stegner Fellowship. In addition to her newest honor, she has recently been awarded a Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship.

She is finishing her first collection of poems, Look.  According to the letter that nominated her work, “Look is envisioned as a poetic rewriting of the Department of Defense dictionary. The DOD dictionary does, in fact, exist as a supplement to the Oxford English Dictionary, and Sharif’s undertaking not only rights the military’s Orwellian misappropriation of language, but uses those very misappropriations to locate the hauntingly personal and specific endpoints of policies. These poems wrestle with dual concerns: the violence against people that is sanitized through language, and the violence against language itself.” She hopes to begin a second collection, “a longer documentary lyric,” about revolution. She will also use her writer’s award to travel to Iran to interview and translate current poets working in the country.

Previous winners of the 20-year-old award, established by the celebrated novelist Rona Jaffe (1931-2005), have been written about in the Book Haven before – Elif Batuman, Tracy Smith, ZZ Packer, and Rivka Galchen. For more about the award, go here.


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