Awards & Prizes

John James Wins the 2nd Annual Max Ritvo Poetry Prize

Milkweed Staff — 11/05/2018

Milkweed Editions, in partnership with Riva Ariella Ritvo-Slifka and the Alan B. Slifka Foundation, is pleased to announce that John James is the winner of the second annual Max Ritvo Poetry Prize. For his manuscript The Milk Hours, chosen by acclaimed poet and judge Henri Cole, James will receive $10,000 and publication by Milkweed Editions in June 2019.

About the collection, Cole says:

“The poetry of the earth is intensely alive in the poems of John James. In this luminous first book, there are poems of a son and a young father. Many of the best inhabit a tormented Kentucky landscape where there is a field with horses, a house and a barn, a flooding river, a cemetery where a parent lies, and bees or flies hovering. Out of the sorrowful fragments of personal history, John James has a created a book of unusual intelligence and beauty.”

James is also the author of Chthonic, winner of the 2014 CutBank Chapbook Award. His poems appear in Boston Review, Kenyon Review, Gulf Coast, Poetry Northwest, Best American Poetry 2017, and elsewhere. Also a digital collagist, his visual art is forthcoming in The Adroit Journal, Quarterly West, and LIT. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he is pursuing a PhD in English at the University of California, Berkeley. Learn more about John James, and sign up to receive alerts about The Milk Hours»

We are grateful to those who served as first readers for the prize: Ruth Awad, Graham Barnhart, Lauren Cook, Kyle Dacuyan, Allison Pitinii Davis, Rebecca Okrent, Matt Sumpter, and Jordan Zandi.

The Max Ritvo Poetry Prize was established to honor the legacy of one of the most original and accomplished poets to debut in recent years, and to reward outstanding emerging poets for years to come. Each year, the winning poet will receive publication by Milkweed and a purse of $10,000, making the Max Ritvo Poetry Prize the most lucrative first-book prize in the nation. The next submission period will be May 1 to June 30, 2019, with additional details to be released in the coming months. Learn more about the Max Ritvo Poetry Prize here»




Henri Cole was born in Fukuoka, Japan. He has published nine collections of poetry, including Middle Earth, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry. He has received many awards for his work, including the Jackson Prize, the Kingsley Tufts Award, the Rome Prize, the Berlin Prize, the Lenore Marshall Award, and the Medal in Poetry from the Academy of Arts and Letters. His most recent collection is Nothing to Declare. A memoir, Orphic Paris, was recently published by New York Review Books. He teaches at Claremont McKenna College and lives in Boston.