The 2017 Chad Walsh Poetry Prize

Michael Lavers is the winner of Beloit Poetry Journal’s 25th annual Chad Walsh Poetry Prize. Since its inception in 1993, the prize has been awarded, on the basis of excellence, to a poem or group of poems published in the journal during the previous year. This year, the editors have selected Lavers’ “Works and Days,” which appeared in the Summer 2017 issue. The prize carries a cash award of $3000.

Michael Lavers’ poems have appeared in Crazyhorse, 32 Poems, The Hudson Review, Best New Poets 2015, The Georgia Review, and elsewhere, and he is the winner of the 2016 University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor's International Poetry Prize. He teaches poetry at Brigham Young University. 

Simultaneously ode and elegy, Lavers’ winning poem braids family and biblical history, intimate moments with geologic time, contracting and expanding in a masterful, revelatory rhythm. “Works and Days” moves deftly from lush image to philosophical grappling and enacts, so, a painful longing for the imperiled natural world in which human lives unfold. Lavers offers up a sustained reckoning with the earth’s vulnerability, our dependence on nature, and our role in its devastation. To read it is to be carried on its waves of love and grief. Lavers writes: 

Every summer has a thousand hours
of light, so heavy Earth groans like a boat,
but that much falls in one Venusian day.
The world seems all behind us but
might not be. Let’s turn and look:
the cows will soon be up, staining their 
jabots in green drool. The violet
saxifrage will bloom, and dawn will come. 

             And dawn will come, carry its dish of milk 
with both hands over the hills. That is
enough. I will get up again. I will make
eggs. How can I justify despair at this 
when bats illumine air by whispering
and she-wolves polish their blind cubs
until they shine? Let’s not wrong Earth
a second time by bungling the elegy.

The Chad Walsh Prize was established in 1993 by Alison Walsh Sackett and her husband Paul in honor of Ms. Sackett's father, the poet Chad Walsh (1914-1991), a co-founder in 1950 of the Beloit Poetry Journal. An author and scholar, Walsh wrote several books on literary history, notably on C.S. Lewis, and published six volumes of poetry, including The End of Nature and Hang Me Up My Begging Bowl. He was professor and writer-in-residence at Beloit College in Wisconsin for thirty-two years, serving for many of those as chair of the English Department. He taught as a Fulbright lecturer in Finland and Italy. 

Previous winners of the Chad Walsh award are Kurt Leland for "Remedies" (1993), Albert Goldbarth for The Two Domains (1994), Sherman Alexie for "Defending Walt Whitman" and "At the Trial of Hamlet, Chicago, 1994" (1995), Robert Chute for "Heat Wave in Concord" (1996), Mary Leader for "For the Love of Gerald Finzi" (1997), Lucia Perillo for "The Oldest Map with the Name America" (1998), Janet Holmes for "Partch Stations" (1999), Margaret Aho for four interrelated poems, "I dream I'm leaving," "Between wand and welt," "When he emerged–," and "Eye-shaped, mouth-shaped" (2000), Glori Simmons for "Graft" (2001), Patricia Goedicke for "Hole"(2002), Mary Molinary for "from Eve's Epistle to Lilith" and "Ashes of burned manuscripts adrift in the wind, so" (2003), Jessica Goodfellow for "A Pilgrim's Guide to Chaos in the Heartland" (2004), Karl Elder for a group of poems from Z Ain't Just for Zabecedarium (2005), Sam Reed for "from The Book of Zeros" (2006), Susan Tichy for "Stork" (2007), John Hodgen for a set of four poems by Hodgen which appeared in the Summer 2008 issue, Onna Solomon for "Autism Suite" (2009), Charles Wyatt for "Thirteen Ways of Looking at Wallace Stevens" (2010), Jenny Johnson for "Aria" (2011), Elizabeth T. Gray, Jr. for "Albania" (2012), Ocean Vuong for "Telemachus" (2013), Fiona Chamness for "Choreography for Ensemble" (2014), Graham Barnhart for "Pissing in Irbil" and "Call to Prayer" (2015), and Marjorie Stelmach for "The Divestments of Autumn" (2016).