The 2021 Yale Series of Younger Poets Winner: Robert Wood Lynn

Photograph by Malik Fakiri

Yale University Press is pleased to announce a winner in the 2021 Yale Series of Younger Poets competition.  The judge, prize-winning and critically acclaimed poet Rae Armantrout, has chosen Robert Wood Lynn’s manuscript, Mothman Apologia. This is Armantrout’s first selection since being named judge of America’s longest-running poetry prize, succeeding Carl Phillips.

Armantrout says: “The Mothman was an apparition seen by several people in the skies of rural West Virginia in the mid 1960s. When a bridge collapsed, he was construed as a harbinger of disaster. There have been so many disasters since then, appearing at an ever-increasing rate. Where is the harbinger? In the long poem Mothman Apologia, the Mothman reappears as a kid growing up in Appalachia, where he is a helpless witness to devastation both personal and public, from strip-mined landscapes and towns awash in Oxycontin to the loss of a lover. Robert Wood Lynn has written about tragedy without either grand-standing or giving in to self-pity. The Mothman has always been an equivocal messenger. Here he begins to doubt his own existence as soon as he scans the internet (much as anyone deep in a ‘flyover’ state might do). It’s possible to compare this work with John Berryman’s Dream Songs or with documentary poetry like Salient by Elizabeth T. Gray. As a reader, I was often surprised, even engrossed, and never once bored! How often can you say that?”

Of his recent win, Robert Wood Lynn says: “I am so grateful for this honor and to be included in this esteemed series. My manuscript, Mothman Apologia, explores the complications of being young in a rural area, an experience that resists the pastoral and the provincial. I want to reach people with that. I am so thankful for Rae Armantrout and Yale University Press for believing in this book. For believing in the Mothman, if just while reading it.”

Yale University Press will publish Lynn’s book in April 2022.  The manuscript is the 116th volume in the series. Its last volume, Desiree C. Bailey’s What Noise Against the Cane, will be published by Yale University Press on April 13, 2021.

What Noise Against the Cane

2020 winner, now available for purchase

Desiree C. Bailey

 A lyrical quest for belonging and freedom, weaving political resistance, Caribbean folklore, immigration and the realities of Black life in America.

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History of the Prize

The Yale Series of Younger Poets champions the most promising new American poets. Awarded since 1919, the Yale Younger Poets prize is the longest-running poetry prize in the United States. Past winners include Muriel Rukeyser, Adrienne Rich, William Meredith, W.S. Merwin, John Ashbery, John Hollander, James Tate, and Carolyn Forché. Carl Phillips was the judge of the Series from 2011-2020, and Rae Armantrout is the current judge.