PITTSBURGH—Chicago author and rapper Nathaniel Marshall has won the 2014 Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize from the University of Pittsburgh Press for his manuscript Wild Hundreds. Marshall described the collection as a “long love song to Chicago,” proudly noting he hails from the city’s South Side.
Wild Hundreds prevailed over 465 manuscripts submitted for the annual award. It will be published next fall. The final selection was made by Ed Ochester, editor of the Pitt Poetry Series.
Marshall said Wild Hundreds “celebrates the people, culture, and places often left out of the civic discourse and the travel guides. It’s a book that displays the beauty of Black survival and mourns the tragedy of Black death,” he explained.
Marshall received his M.F.A. from the University of Michigan’s Helen Zell Writers’ Program. A Cave Canem Fellow, his work has appeared in POETRY Magazine, The New Republic, and Indiana Review, among other places. He has won the Hurston/Wright Founding Members Award and the Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Award. Marshall is a member of the poetry collective Dark Noise.
“I got the news while I was on a Greyhound bus riding through Vermont,” said Marshall about hearing he’d won the Starrett. “I was half asleep when I got the voicemail and pretty confused. I suppressed a scream so as to not frighten the other passengers. When I called Ed (Ochester) back and he said again that I had won, I said ‘are you sure?’ I’m still surprised and freaked out that my poems got picked, but now I’ve signed the papers so no take backs!” he laughed.
The Starrett is awarded for a first full-length book of poems. Named after the first director of UPP, it carries a cash award of $5,000 in addition to publication.