We’re eagerly awaiting our own upcoming interview with Alaska poet Joan Kane, but we can understand why she’s a little busy today, as the secrecy veil lifts over receipt last night of a coveted $50,000 Whiting Writers Award.
New York magazine had this to say about the prize, which was awarded to ten writers and playwrights.
“…the Whitings are a ticket out of water-treading obscurity. Not everyone who wins follows the path of Whiting alumni Denis Johnson, August Wilson, Jonathan Franzen, Lydia Davis, and Jeffrey Eugenides. But even a book advance would be a quantum leap for another 2009 winner, Joan Kane, a (very pregnant) Native Alaskan writer whose new book of poetry, The Cormorant Hunter’s Wife, had a print run of 500 copies with NorthShore Press, which runs off a solar cell. (She bought 400 of them so she could sell them herself.) “No royalties, nothing,” says Kane, who has four subsidized months to get some writing done before her second child is due. “This comes at a really fortunate time.”
The Anchorage Daily News shares this about Kane’s background: a 32-year-old Inupiaq mom from Anchorage with a second son due in February, Kane was accepted into Harvard University at the age of 17, and received an MFA at Columbia in 2006. She works as a financial consultant for Native corporations but looks forward to concentrating on a second book of poems, among other things. Her play, “The Golden Tusk,” premiered at the Anchorage Museum this summer.
The two other Alaskans who received past Whitings were Seth Kantner and Natalie Kusz.
The award ceremony was keynoted by Margaret Atwood, who had this great advice for the recipients: “‘Doubt not, go forward. If thou doubt, the beasts will tear thee piecemeal.'”