Poetry Northwest launches the Joan Swift Memorial Prize, for women poets over the age of 65

Poetry Northwest is announcing a new prize, in honor of poet Joan Swift, who passed away earlier this year at the age of 90.

"The Joan Swift Memorial Prize is the brainchild of Esther Altshul Helfgott, longtime curator of the It's About Time reading series in Ballard," said Poetry Northwest executive editor Kevin Craft (Helfgott was also our Poet in Residence for September this year). "When Joan died earlier this year, we first heard the sad news from Esther. At the time we had been planning for an interview feature with Joan, who had recently published a few new poems in Poetry Northwest. The poems that Joan published in the summer 2016 issue, including 'Sometimes a Lake' and 'Moth,' represent a milestone for the magazine.

"Joan Swift was among the first poets ever published in Poetry Northwest, in the fall of 1959. In publishing Swift, and others like her, founding editor Carolyn Kizer made clear her commitment to emerging poets of the region, women writers most especially."

In the last issue Craft worked on, in 2016, he published new poems by Swift, 57 years after her initial debut. "The poems are lively, full-voiced, wry with experience. Publishing them was a joy in itself, marking the full achievement of Joan's life. It also signaled the continuity of our root commitment to women writers of the region."

The prize will focus on women poets living and writing in the Pacific Northwest — that includes western Montana, Northern California, BC, and Alaska as well as Washington, Oregon, and Idaho — over the age of 65. The winning poet will receive $500, publication in Poetry Northwest, and a reading in the It's About Time series. The deadline is January 15, 2018, with publication for summer 2018. There is no fee to enter. More information on how to apply can be found on the Poetry Northwest website.

Craft, who will judge the competition, says "We wanted to call attention to an active group of writers that may find it more challenging to get the attention of editors elsewhere in the publishing world."

We're so glad to see such an important voice honored in such an appropriate way. Help us spread the word!