FRESNO – The Whiting Foundationa New York-based humanities organization that has supported creative writers since 1985, award-winning author and Fresno State alumnus Anthony Cody with a prize of $50,000.
One of the most valued and largest monetary gifts to emerging writers, the annual Whiting Awards recognize early career achievement and “enable recipients to fulfill the promise of outstanding literary works to come.”
Cody, the most honored writer in the 25-year history of Fresno State The Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program is among 10 writers shortlisted for a 2022 Whiting Prize. Winners are selected by a small committee of acclaimed writers, literary scholars, and editors appointed by the foundation.
Courtney Hodell, director of literary programs at the Whiting Foundation, said in a statement that the award-winning writers offer new cultural critique, poetry of place, personality and appetite, and surreal stories of wit and compassion. “Their work is the spring thaw of the mind,” Hodell said.
The selection committee called Cody’s poetry “invigorating” and said his writing “expanded what is possible for American poetry”. His avant-garde poems are “assembled from official documents, historical memoirs, guidebooks, maps and edicts”, as the works deconstruct and expand language in surprising ways.
“How does poetry grow, change, respond to the present moment? asked the committee. “In Anthony Cody’s work, he stretches the form to become what it describes. These are poems about borders and the refusal of borders where the words themselves are held captive, restrained or pushed to the margins. With audacity and formal dexterity, Cody assembles his spectral poems from official documents, guidebooks, works of history, maps, laws and edicts, and traces of a bitter and bloody memory.
Cody says he’s looking at the list of Whiting winners over the past 37 years and sees heroes and icons he has long studied and admired.
“You write, you grind, you never imagine yourself being in this place and added to this list,” said Cody, who accepted the award on April 6 at a ceremony in New York. “Yet here I am.”
Cody can’t thank the foundation’s recommenders or anonymous judges, but he can thank and name those who have touched his life, he said, as he ultimately uses the award to continue working to help and inspire those who have touched his life. future writers and poets.
“I think of all the people who have come before me, countless people, who are literally geniuses in their own field,” Cody said. “People who have never received or have yet to receive this kind of honor, and I am grateful to them. To step into the unknown and the hostile. To navigate historically black-exclusive spaces , natives and writers of color. For having had to make the choice not to write, but to work and survive. That is to say, even a one-time reward for the making of a book carries with it the knowledge that many people had to endure far more than I had to endure for me to even entertain the idea that I could write a single poem, alone tries to reimagine the stuff of a poem and a page.
Brynn Saitoassistant professor of English at Fresno State, said Cody’s latest award shines a spotlight on “the unique poetics of visionary resistance” that continues to emerge from California’s Central Valley.
“[Cody’s] Whiting Award is incredibly inspiring, especially for writers who innovate aesthetic forms to confront histories of state violence committed against communities of color,” said Saito, who served as Cody’s dissertation mentor. “[Cody’s] the works broaden the definition of poetry: it is history, documentary, visual art and sound sculpture—often all rolled into one. And like all liberating art, it shatters expectations to renew our languages of freedom.
Cody’s first book of poetry, “Borderland Apocrypha”, won the 2018 Omnidawn Editions Open Book Contest and was released in April 2020, a month before he completed his MFA. The book won a American Book Awarda Los Angeles Times Poetry Book Award and a Southwest Book Award. He was also a finalist for the National Book Award in poetry and finalist for the PEN/Jean Stein Award.
His second yet to be published book, “The Rendering”, won the WAGS-Proquest Distinguished Master’s Thesis Award in Creative, Visual and Performing Arts. Presented by the Western Association of Graduate Schools, the honor was the first WAGS thesis award given to a Fresno State student in the regional association’s 62-year history.
In addition to an MFA (2020), Cody also holds a BFA in Liberal Studies (2004) from Fresno State. Originally from Fresno, he frequently collaborates with Juan Felipe Herrera in the Visual Wordist Studio Lab Winner on the campus. He is Associate Poetry Editor for Noemi Pressand as a poetry editor for Omnidawn Publishing.
Click on here for an earlier Sierra News Online article on Anthony Cody.