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How To Apply For Awards like the Ruth Lilly...As Told By A Winner

"Willie Lee Kinard III, what are tips for applying for the Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent? "

"Oh, okay. Um, read widely. Read widely. Read widely. Read widely. And this is to say, like, read things that are curious to you. Read things that are foreign to you. Read things that are like, 'I've always wondered that.' But, what happens? For poetry, or at least, capital P, big Poetry, it's tough. think we've sat through, or maybe that's happened, maybe worked or labored or collaborated through an era or a decade of lots of beautiful bits of diversity, lots of beautiful conversations that are now starting to enter larger publishing.

But it's tough to figure out what to read. Start with what you like. Move from there. Figure out the mechanics of it and attempt to write something. I think, for me, I didn't know anything really about big publishing before, honestly, ever, to be entirely honest, until, my book kind of happened. I self-published my chapbook about a year after I graduated college. I pushed it like a mixtape. I popped my trunk. I sold my products. I'd be at your poetry slam with, like, a couple rolling.

And as I wanted to get better, I kept listening to folks via Twitter and Instagram and whatnot, trying to figure out, like, who are y'all reading? Who's hot? Who's making things feel like I want to try that in a poem or try that in something else? I heard some beautiful folks. I got acquainted with the work of Soma Sharif. I got acquainted with the work of Justin Phillip Reed and some other folks that really made me feel like, can I try this? Can I do this? If they're saying things like this, and this sounds like an accent like mine, and I, too, can write in ways where I'm trying to write like this. Is it possible for me?

I'm really weird about competition. I am quietly competitive, but I never say that out loud, because I don't really have enough energy to commit to it. So, I kind of do things seasonally. I'll write a bunch of pieces throughout the year. I'm generally always writing, even if I'm not trying to, which is the same, usually thinking, write my poems, figure them out, try to get them out.

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