News / Awards & Prizes

Caitlin Bailey Wins 2017 Lindquist & Vennum Prize for Poetry

Milkweed Staff — 04/19/2017

St. Paul resident Caitlin Bailey is the winner of the 2017 Lindquist & Vennum Prize for Poetry. Her manuscript, Solve for Desire, was chosen from more than two hundred collections of poets across the Upper Midwest by this year’s independent judge, acclaimed poet Srikanth Reddy. Bailey will receive $10,000 as well as publication by Milkweed Editions. She is the sixth recipient of this annual prize.

Bailey has always been interested in persona poems, and Solve for Desire began as an imagined letter from Grete Trakl, an Austrian pianist, to her brother Georg Trakl, a poet. “When I read about Georg and Grete I found myself drawn to Grete’s story—one that is often eclipsed by Georg. I started thinking about what a correspondence between the two of them might have looked like. How would her big, unwieldy desires—and my own—show up on the page? Solve for Desire became a sort of love letter to Grete.” Both Trakl siblings died young, Grete of a self-inflicted gun wound and Georg of a cocaine overdose.

Reddy—author of two books of poetry, Facts for Visitors (2004) and Voyager (2011), and Associate Professor of English at the University of Chicago—described Bailey’s manuscript as follows:

“The speaker of Solve for Desire inserts herself into a sad historical equation—Georg and Greta Trakl’s tragic story of trauma, addiction, and suicide—and discovers, through the passage of grief into wonder, an endlessly variable self. ‘Perhaps I was a magpie, a songbird. / Perhaps all burden and roar.’ Is this Greta speaking from the grave, or is it anyone who’s lost a brother, or struggled with dependence, or made music from a broken heart’s ‘perfect red burst’? Solve for Desire is the work of a poet who sings, boldly, across the distances between us. ‘I am not afraid of any edge.’”

Solve for Desire will be published in November 2017, and a public reading and celebration will be held around its publication. SIGN UP to receive occasional updates about the book.

Bailey, along with the five other Lindquist & Vennum Prize for Poetry finalists, including Soham Patel for Too Afar from Afar, Patrick Johnson for Gatekeeper, Paige Riehl for Wait, Michael Torres for Homeboys with Slipped Halos, and Angela Voras-Hills for The Account of Worms, were honored at Milkweed Editions’ second annual Poetry Month Party on April 13.

From left to right: Angela Voras-Hills, Soham Patel, Michael Torres, Caitlin Bailey, Paige Riehl, and Patrick Johnson.


ABOUT THE JUDGE | Srikanth Reddy is the author of two books of poetry, Facts for Visitors (2004) and Voyager (2011), both published by the University of California Press. A scholar as well, his critical study Changing Subjects: Digressions in Modern American Poetry was published by Oxford University Press in 2012. He has received fellowships and awards from the Asian American Writer’s Workshop, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Whiting Foundation, and the Creative Capital Foundation, among others. A graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop and the doctoral program in English at Harvard University, Reddy is currently an Associate Professor of English at the University of Chicago.