Phillip B. Williams wins Whiting Award

$50K prize among most prestigious for emerging writers

Phillip B. Williams. (Photo: Rachel Eliza Griffiths)

Poet Phillip B. Williams, a 2014 graduate of The Writing Program in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, is among 10 recipients of the 2017 Whiting Award.

Established by the Whiting Foundation in 1985, the $50,000 awards are among the largest and most prestigious for emerging writers in fiction, nonfiction, poetry and drama. Winners were announced March 22 at the New York Historical Society.

“The prize offers the gift of radical freedom to writers with the talent and imagination to match it,” said Courtney Hodell, director of Writers’ Programs for the Whiting Foundation.

Williams, a Chicago native, is author of the full-length collection “Thief in the Interior” (2016) and the chapbooks “Bruised Gospels” (2011) and “Burn” (2013). He is a Cave Canem graduate and received scholarships from Bread Loaf Writers Conference and a 2013 Ruth Lilly Fellowship. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Anti-, Callaloo and Kenyon Review Online, among others.

Williams received his MFA in creative writing as a Chancellor’s Graduate Fellow. He is the poetry editor of the online journal Vinyl Poetry.

Previous Whiting recipients range from August Wilson, Lydia Davis and David Foster Wallace to Jonathan Franzen, Tony Kushner and Alice McDermott. Last year, Whiting winner Colson Whitehead won the National Book Award for his novel “The Underground Railroad,” and Tarell Alvin McCraney’s “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue” became the basis for the Oscar-winning film “Moonlight.”

For a complete list of winners, visit

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