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Bluest Nude by Ama Codjoe wins 2023 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize

Milkweed Staff — 09/19/2023

We are thrilled to announce that Bluest Nude by Ama Codjoe is the winner of the Academy of American Poets 2023 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize. This $25,000 prize recognizes the most outstanding book of poetry published in the United States in the previous year.

Codjoe has received a 2023 Whiting Award, a 2017 Rona Jaffe Writer’s Award, a creative writing fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Jerome Hill Artist Fellowship, and a NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellowship. She is the 2023 Poet-in-Residence at the Guggenheim Museum. Bluest Nude was a finalist for both the NAACP Image Award in Outstanding Poetry and the Paterson Poetry Prize.

The judges’ citation from Shane McCrae, January Gill O’Neill, and Monica Youn reads:

Bluest Nude stands as a remarkable testament to Codjoe’s mastery of language, as she weaves words into intricate tapestries of imagery and emotion. Her ability to intertwine the personal with universal themes demonstrates a keen understanding of the human condition, inviting readers to connect with the heartbeats in her poems. With this book, Ama Codjoe arrives fully formed, as only the strongest poets do. It might have been a fifth book, rather than a first, except fifth books are infrequently so fresh, so surprising, so at ease with their own techniques, and the clarity of vision the reader finds in Bluest Nude is just plain rare. Through a number of means, but especially through the precise lens she trains upon the female body, Codjoe achieves a high goal of poetry: the startling revelation of the deeply known. In the title poem from the collection, she writes, ‘In the flower of my body— / blossoms belonging, / at last, / to me, / sovereign / place, where I am no one / but myself.’ With every carefully crafted line, Codjoe challenges conventions, disrupts expectations, and expands the boundaries of poetic expression.”

Learn more about the 2023 American Poets Prizes here.