fb-pixel Skip to main content
new england literary news | NINA MACLAUGHLIN

Jamaica Plain poet wins Yale younger poets prize

Jamaica Plain resident<b/> Duy Doan is this year’s winner of the Yale Younger Poets prize.

J.P. poet gets prestigious honor

Duy Doan couldn’t quite believe what he was hearing. Late last month, the Jamaica Plain resident got a phone call from poet Carl Phillips telling him that he’d won the Yale Series of Younger Poets prize, one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious literary awards.

Doan, 34, first thought Phillips was saying that he’d been chosen as a finalist. When Phillips finally made himself clear, Doan started weeping. “Don’t cry,” Phillips told him, gently. “Or you can cry a little, but don’t be sad.”

Doan, who studied poetry at Boston University with Robert Pinsky, Louise Glück, and Roseanna Warren, is now the director of the Favorite Poem Project. He said that his path was probably a little different from many other poets. “I never rushed to get published in journals,’’ he said. “I only just started doing readings. I’ve had to do it the way that felt right instinctually.”

In announcing the prize, Phillips described Doan’s work as “his own form of meditation on, ultimately, childhood, history, culture — who we are, and how — refusing all along to romanticize any of it.”


The child of Vietnamese immigrants, Doan talked of the slow loss — and slow recouping — of his native tongue. He says that the word for “poet” in Vietnamese is literally translated as “house of poems.” How beautiful that is, he said, and with the beauty comes a sadness — how many other words and phrases are there like that that he doesn’t know?

Established in 1919 to encourage promising young writers who have not yet published a book, past Yale winners have included Adrienne Rich, John Ashbery, W.S. Merwin, and Robert Hass. Yale University Press will publish Doan’s collection, “We Play a Game,’’ next year.

ICA picks graphic novel for book club

The Institute of Contemporary Art has chosen Damian Duffy and John Jennings’s graphic novel “Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation’’ (Harry N. Abrams) for its annual ICA Reads book club. The new work, published in January, comes more than 35 years after Olivia E. Butler’s hugely popular novel about slavery, race, gender, and history. The saga follows Dana, a young, black woman, who is transported from 1970s California to the antebellum South. Duffy and Jennings will discuss their project at the ICA on May 4 at 7 p.m.


Remembering poet Bill Knott

Poet Bill Knott, who died in 2014, taught at Emerson College for more than two decades, and poet Thomas Lux describes him as a “blunt force surrealist, a tender lyric poet and an innovative metrician.” In “I Am Flying Into Myself: Selected Poems 1960-2014’’ (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), Lux has pulled together Knott’s verse, and an event on March 30 will celebrate Knott’s career and the publication of this collection. “The most private part of the clock is the hour,” Knott writes, “no, I mean the minute,/or wait, the forever.” Hosted by poets and Emerson colleagues Peter Shippy and John Skoyles, “Remembering Bill Knott” will also feature William Corbett, Stephen Dobyns, Emily Kendal Frey, Jack Gantos, and others. The event takes place at 6 p.m. at the Bill Bordy Theater, 216 Tremont St.

Coming out

“The Women in the Castle’’ by Jessica Shattuck (William Morrow)

The Lowells of Massachusetts: An American Family’’ by Nina Sankovitch (St. Martin’s)

“Tender’’ by Sofia Samatar (Small Beer)

Pick of the week

Megan K. Shea at the Mustard Seed Bookstore in Bath, Maine, recommends “Pax’’ by Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by Jon Klassen (HarperCollins): “This powerful middle-grade novel explores coming-of-age amid impending war, separation from family, and what it means to fight for someone, or some animal, you love. With chapters alternating between the boy Peter’s voice and that of his pet fox Pax, readers find themselves immersed in this contemporary imagining of the hero’s journey, complete with a quest to unknown lands, challenges and trials along the way, a wise mentor, sacrifice and reward.”


Nina MacLaughlin is the author of “Hammer Head: The Making of a Carpenter.” She can be reached at nmaclaughlin@gmail.com.