Stephen Gibson named 2017 Miller Williams Poetry Prize winner
Stephen Gibson, the poet and English professor who taught at Palm Beach State College’s Belle Glade campus for 32 years before his retirement last year, has won the 2017 Miller Williams Poetry Prize, judged by former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins.
Gibson won for his book Self-Portrait in a Door-Length Mirror. A winner of many awards, including the Donald Justice Poetry Prize in 2014, Gibson’s previous poetry collections include The Garden of Earthly Delights of Ghazals, Rorschach Art Too, Paradise, Frescoes, Masaccios’s Expulsion and Rorschach Art.
The prize is given by the University of Arkansas Press, which will publish Gibson’s book in the spring of 2017. He will receive the $5,000 cash prize that is awarded annually to the winner and is funded by an endowment established through a concert given by Williams’s daughter, Lucinda Williams, a Grammy-award-winning singer and songwriter.
Miller Williams, an accomplished poet and translator, was the founding director of the University of Arkansas Press. He published Collins’ first collection, The Apple that Astonished Paris, in 1988. From that early success Collins embarked on his remarkable career, which included two terms as U.S. Poet Laureate. The New York Times has called him “the most popular poet in America,” and the level of sales for his many books is nearly unheard of in the poetry world.
Over the years Collins has remained appreciative of Williams and the University of Arkansas Press for publishing his first book. In serving as judge for the Miller Williams Poetry Prize, Collins seeks out poetry not necessarily like his own or Williams’, but rather something he believes Williams would have liked. Collins has said that Williams valued poems that “show a courteous, engaging awareness for the presence of a reader,” and that “a plain-spoken poem did not have to be imaginatively plain.”