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Writers’ Institute’s choices for NY State Author, Poet are both from Brooklyn

August 24, 2023 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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The New York State Writers Institute has chosen two Brooklyn residents as its new state author and its new state poet — poet Patricia Spears Jones and children’s/teens’ book author Jacqueline Woodson.

The awards, established in 1985 by the late Gov. Mario Cuomo and the state legislature to promote fiction and poetry in the state, are presented once every two years by the writers Institute. Those named to these positions each receive $10,000 and serve for two years.

Woodson will receive the Edith Wharton Citation of Merit for Fiction, and Jones will receive the Walt Whitman Citation of Merit for poetry at a ceremony at the University of Albany on Friday, Sept. 23. 

Jacqueline Woodson is best known for the autobiographical “Brown Girl Dreaming,” “After Tupac and D Foster,” “Feathers” and “Show Way.” All four of these titles won the Newbury Award, given by the Association for Library Service to Children to the authors of distinguished contributions to American children’s literature.

Woodson moved to Brooklyn from Greenville, South Carolina, at the age of seven. In addition to the aforementioned titles, she also wrote “Another Brooklyn,” in which the protagonist, an anthropologist, looks back on her past in 1970s and ’80s Bushwick to understand the death of her mother and the loss of her closest friends. Unlike most of her other books, this one was aimed at adults.

Among the many awards Woodson has received are the National Book Award (for “Brown Girl Dreaming”), the Coretta Scott King Award, the Kurt Vonnegut Award, the Langston Hughes Medal and the Hans Christian Andersen Medal. All in all, she has written more than 40 books.

Brooklyn resident Patricia Spears Jones has been named as New York State Poet. Photo: Rachel Eliza Griffiths

Patricia Spears Jones, also based in Brooklyn, is the author of five poetry collections, including “The Beloved Community” and “A Lucent Fire: New and Selected Poems.” In addition, her poems have been included in several anthologies and she was the co-editor of the 1978 anthology, “Ordinary Women: An Anthology of New York City Women Poets.”

She also serves as program coordinator of the Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church in the Bowery, founded the American Poets Congress, and also founded the WORDS Sunday poetry reading series in Brooklyn.

“We offer our heartiest congratulations to Jacqueline Woodson and Patricia Spears Jones,” said Paul Grondahl, director of the New York State Writers Institute. “These two outstanding writers with New York roots are worthy recipients of these prestigious honors. We celebrate their singular literary excellence and how each embodies the vitality of the literary arts in New York State.” 

The New York State Author award is named for Edith Wharton (1862-1937), widely regarded as one of America’s great novelists. The New York State Poet award is named for Walt Whitman (1819-1892), the renowned “poet of democracy” who lived in Brooklyn for many years.

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