Last week, The University of Akron Press awarded its 2016 Akron Poetry Prize to Aimée Baker, a lecturer at the State University of New York (SUNY) Plattsburgh in New York.
The Akron Poetry Prize is an annual award that the Press gives to a poet with a new and compelling voice. Each year, a prominent national writer is selected to judge the competition. The winning poet receives $1,500 and the publication of their book. All poets writing in English are welcome to enter.
Allison Joseph, a professor at Southern Illinois University and the author of six poetry collections, judged this year’s contest. She chose Baker’s book, “Doe,” out of 470 submissions.
“I admire [the book’s] active courage, its commitment to witnessing what so many reject,” Joseph said. “It stayed with me through reading all the others—fantastic books, the lot of them. But ‘Doe’ is a game changer, a silence eliminator.”
“Doe” began, according to Baker, when she tried to understand the news coverage of an unidentified Arizona woman whose body was thrown out of a car. Baker then began documenting similar cases. Over the next seven years, she created a story through poetry to mourn the missing and unknown women across the United States.
“By utilizing public files, newspaper reports, and other public information, [‘Doe’] seeks to erase the silence surrounding these women and resurrect them in our collective consciousness,” Baker’s blog says. “There are over sixty women featured in this manuscript, but they represent a small fraction of ongoing cases in the United States.”
Jon Miller, the director of the Press, says that the manuscript is still in the review and production process. He hopes that it will be out by February 2018, at which point it will be available online and in most bookstores.