About Us

The Jane Kenyon Prize for UM undergraduates serves two primary purposes: to create a space for UM undergrads to publish their work to a larger audience and to facilitate dialogue between the different spheres of writers in Ann Arbor.

By collaborating with local organizations, like Literati and Wolverine Press, while being run out of the Helen Zell Writers’ Program in order to showcase undergraduate poetry, we’ve tried to incorporate multiple spheres of the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti/greater southwest Michigan writing communities. Ultimately, this project attempts to highlight the poignancy and intellect of UM’s undergraduate poets as well as creating a space for intercommunity conversation.

Jane Kenyon
Prize Namesake

Jane Kenyon was born in Ann Arbor and received a B.A. and an M.A. from the University of Michigan. Author of four books of poetry as well as several posthumous publications, Kenyon’s work was lauded during her lifetime for its honest depictions of depression and of understanding identity.

Kenyon’s verse is precise, attentive to the power of daily sensations, and vulnerable to witnessing the complex experiences of people in different times and environments. Carol Muske and Gary Roberts, among others, compared her verse to that of Keats, with Roberts stating in an essay for Contemporary Women Poets that “like Keats, she attempts to redeem morbidity with a peculiar kind of gusto, one which seeks a quiet annihilation of self-identity through identification with benign things.” The smallest moments, for Kenyon, contain the magnitude of being conscious and present in a complex and ever-changing world.

Her poetry at times recalls domestic scenes of nature, or offers confessional insights into mental illness, or engages history and current events to understand one’s cultural responsibility in a contemporary world. A poet of range and precise technical ability, Kenyon characterizes the importance of poetry to the psyche as well as to society.

During her time at the University of Michigan, Kenyon met her husband, poet Donald Hall. Together, the two lived in New Hampshire until she died in 1995, at the age of 47, of Leukemia. Hall’s collection, Without, reconciles losing her to the disease. Many of Kenyon’s letters, essays, and poetry have been published posthumously to keep her powerful writing and voice alive.

Links to online writing by Jane Kenyon:
“Otherwise” on Poets.org
“Having it Out with Melancholy” on Poets.org
“Gettysburg: July 1, 1863” on Poetry Foundation
“Briefly It Enters, and Briefly Speaks” on Poetry Foundation
“Let Evening Come” on Poetry Foundation

Carlina Duan
Contest Judge

Carlina Duan is a poet and an educator from Michigan. She is the author of I WORE MY BLACKEST HAIR (Little A, 2017), and the chapbook Here I Go, Torching (National Federation of State Poetry Societies, 2015). Carlina has received residencies and awards from Tin House, the Academy of American Poets, the Fulbright Program, Sundress Academy for the Arts, Narrative Magazine, the Hopwood Program, Signal Fire Arts, & more. She received her M.F.A. in Poetry from Vanderbilt University, where she served as the Co-Editor-in-Chief of Nashville Review. Her poems can be found in Gulf Coast, Black Warrior Review, The Margins, & elsewhere. Carlina is currently a Ph.D. student in the Joint Ph.D. Program in English & Education at the University of Michigan. Her research interests include creative writing pedagogies and linguistic activism in storytelling.

A. Van Jordan
Founding Faculty Advisor

A. Van Jordan is the author of four collections: Rise, which won the PEN/Oakland Josephine Miles Award (Tia Chucha Press, 2001); M-A-C-N-O-L-I-A, (2005), which was listed as one the Best Books of 2005 by The London Times; Quantum Lyrics, (2007); and The Cineaste, (2013), W.W. Norton & Co..

At the University of Michigan, Jordan is a Robert Hayden Collegiate Professor and the current MFA Director of the Helen Zell Writers’ Program.

Jordan has been awarded a Whiting Writers Award, an Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and a Pushcart Prize. He is a recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, a United States Artists Williams Fellowship, and the 2016 Lannan Literary Award in Poetry.

Daniel Neff
Founder and Managing Editor

Daniel Neff is a teacher and writer currently located in Ann Arbor, MI. Daniel has an MFA from the Helen Well Writers’ Program and has taught with InsideOut Literary Arts Project in Detroit. Daniel’s poetry has been published or is forthcoming in DIAGRAM, Zyzzyva, Ninth Letter, and Phoebe, among others. Daniel’s work has also won an American Academy of Poets Prize.

**If you have questions or want to get involved, feel free to contact us here**