Authors / Submissions

Caroline Harper New wins the 2023 Ballard Spahr Prize for Poetry

Milkweed Staff — 05/17/2023


Milkweed Editions is thrilled to announce that Caroline Harper New has won the 2023 Ballard Spahr Prize for Poetry. This is the final year that Milkweed will award the prize. New has won for her poetry collection A History of Half-Birds, selected by Maggie Smith. She will receive $10,000 and publication by Milkweed Editions in January 2024.

Caroline Harper New is a poet and artist from southern Georgia with a background in anthropology. Her work includes ecopoetic short films, painting exhibitions, children’s book illustrations, and ethnographic research in Madagascar. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in American Poetry Review, The Cincinnati Review, PRISM International, Bellevue Literary Review, Colorado Review, The Malahat Review, Palette Poetry, and elsewhere. She is winner of the 2022 Love & Eros Prize, 2023 Malahat Open Season Award, 2022 Robert and Adele Schiff Award, and 2022 John & Eileen Allman Prize for Poetry. She holds an MFA in poetry from the University of Michigan. New lives in Ann Arbor, MI with her partner and their tailless tortie cat.

In response to winning the prize, Caroline Harper New reflected:

“It’s hard to believe. There are so many talented writers out there, and to be selected from that pool is such an unexpected honor. I moved to Michigan and started taking poetry seriously at the start of the pandemic, so A History of Half-Birds feels like an emergence out of these strange, dark years. Though my writing is still rooted in the South, this collection was only possible by the kindness and generosity of the community I’ve found here in Michigan. To have my first book published with an incredible press like Milkweed, also located in the Midwest, makes me feel like my past has a place in my present.

There’s something a little anxious about winning this prize as well. A collection never really feels finished—poems grow and evolve as we do, and to have your work frozen in time can be scary. But, for the same reason, I can finally exhale. This prize brings a sense of closure, as well as permission to put these stories away and clear space for new chapters of life. Overall, I am left with immense gratitude, disbelief, and excitement. I have a home, my book has a home, and these homes are overflowing with love.”

In her prize judgment for the winning collection, Maggie Smith wrote:

“A History of Half-Birds, an inventive and impressively wide-ranging collection, has me considering and reconsidering the connections between seemingly disparate things: between poetry and science, both fueled by curiosity, imagination, and possibility; between history and myth, precision and ambiguity, the known and the unknown. In the Anthropocene, we may be tempted to ask what poetry can do for us when what we need are tools for survival. I’d argue that these poems are just that—expertly crafted, satisfying to hold and behold, and sharp enough to dissect what needs dissecting. We’re so lucky to have this book here and now.”

We are also pleased to acknowledge the finalists for this year’s prize:

Self-Mythology by Saba Keramati
Unfolding the Flood by Peter Mason
Teneral by Abigail McFee
Who Knows, Maybe I’m Already Living by Aurora Shimshak

We look forward to publishing A History of Half-Birds in January 2024. Please join us in congratulating Caroline!