By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson
Kelleher: ‘New Ways of Seeing the Past, Present, and Future’Anyone who experiences awards fatigue in the international publishing industry will have appreciated one point in particular in our interview with the Windham-Campbell Prizes’ articulate founding director Michael Kelleher.
“There’s no longlist,” he said. “No shortlist. No competition. And you know, there’s no winner. There’s eight winners.” In short, this unique program doesn’t joust with rivals for your attention all year. It goes about its generous work quietly, mercifully, intelligently.
And its eight winners for 2023 were announced last evening (April 4).
As Publishing Perspectives readers will recall, this is the award regime that annually hands unrestricted grants—each now worth a newly increased US$175,000—to eight practitioners in four categories: fiction, nonfiction, drama, and poetry. That’s a total US$1.4 million.
Based at Yale’s masterful Beineke Library, the award is named for its creators, the late Donald Windham and Sandy Campbell. Its first prizes were awarded in 2013. The intent is not only to generate some visibility for its beneficiaries but also to allow them to focus on their work independent of financial concerns.
Like several fellowships that may have higher profiles in cultural circles, this program is one of those marvels of endowment that protects its integrity by operating both its nominations process and juried selections in confidence. There are no applications. The only criteria are that a recipient must work in English and must have at least one published book or one produced play to her or his credit.
Fully internationalized, the program’s recipients can live and work in any region of the world and may be at any stage in their careers.
The 2023 Windham-Campbell Laureates
In the last decade, the Windham-Campbell Prizes have granted close to US$16 million to recipients and triggered an untold number of dreams among those watching these fortunate folks be given such enhanced traction as this program offers.
In announcing the 2023 recipients, Kelleher says, “Reading this year’s recipients excited me because each one taught me new ways of seeing the past, the present, and the future. I can’t wait to see what each of them does next.”
Kelleher has also produced a video about this year’s group, complete with that “getting the call” moment when recipients learn from him that they’re the beneficiaries of this special windfall. We’ll embed that video for you below.
We’ll also give you a line of rationale from the unnamed jurors about each of their choices. Our links are to the Windham-Campbell site’s page for each winner and a video commentary on his or her work.
Percival Everett (United States) – fiction
- Jurors: “In its mordant humor and philosophical skepticism, Percival Everett’s virtuosic body of work exemplifies fiction’s capacity for play, vigilance, and compassion for life’s precarity in an uncertain world.”
Ling Ma (United States) – fiction
- Jurors: “Ling Ma meditates on urban anomie with wry humor and subversive imagination, brilliantly bending and blending genre to plumb the depths of her characters’ origins, displacement, and alienation.”
Susan Williams (United Kingdom) – nonfiction
- Jurors: “Susan Williams chronicles imperial legacies with a forensic eye, a historical mind, and a decolonial sensibility for African agency; her findings are as stunning as they are transformative.”
Darran Anderson (Ireland/United Kingdom) – nonfiction
- Jurors: “With divinatory attention, Darran Anderson gives voice to the testimony of objects and geographies, chronicling the passage of individual memory as it turns into a community’s archive and sustaining myth.“
Dominique Morisseau (United States) – drama
- Jurors: “The nuanced characters and trenchant stories in Dominique Morisseau’s plays strike at the heart of the most pressing conversations facing African Americans today, embodying a steadfast belief in the transformative power of love and art.”
Jasmine Lee-Jones (United Kingdom) – drama
- Jurors: “Fierce, fresh, and funny, Jasmine Lee-Jones’s iconoclastic plays reinvigorate the vernacular of contemporary theater for a new generation.”
Alexis Pauline Gumbs (United States) – poetry
- Jurors: “The luminous, visionary poetry of Alexis Pauline Gumbs emerges from urgent realities of the present and haunting voices of the past to imagine alternative worlds shaped by radical listening, compassion, and love.”
dg nanouk okpik (Iñupiaq-Inuit) – poetry
- Jurors: “dg nanouk okpik’s lapidary poems sound the depths of language and landscape, shuttling between the ancient past and imperiled present of Inuit Alaska in a searching meditation on ecology and time.”
It’s worth noting that the British playwright Jasmine Lee-Jones, at 25, is the youngest recipient of a Windham-Campbell grant to date.