Women Poets

About the Women Poets Program:


[current schedule]

Women Poets at Barnard has hosted free, public readings at Barnard College by emerging and established poets for over twenty years.  The series highlights the work of women in the art and encourages its study.  We present writers from different aesthetic disciplines and traditions in order to broaden our community’s understanding of contemporary poetry, its range and effects.

This series is supported by Barnard College.  Copies of publications from the Women Poets series are available for purchase.

The Director of Creative Writing in the Barnard English Department also arranges for readings by guest authors, Barnard faculty, and creative writing students.  Both series have now been combined into a full calendar of readings of both poetry and prose called Writers at Barnard.

Our Reading Schedule Summary lists offerings during this current academic year, plus occasional lectures on literary topics.  For links to other literary events organized outside the English Department or off-campus, please visit our Quick Links page.

If you would like to receive email reminders of these events, please fill out the form on the right to be added to our newsletter.

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Barnard Women Poets Prize

"In the rich and multi-directional advances of American poetry," Mona Van Duyn observed, "young women are in the forefront."  Throughout its history, Women Poets at Barnard has collaborated with presses to recognize that forefront and publish the work of American female writers.  Sixteen debut collections were published by Beacon Press through the Barnard New Women Poets Prize, supported by Beacon, the Axe-Houghton Foundation, and the generous alumnae of Barnard College.  Copies of books from original series from 1986-1999 are available through the English Department.  [order form]

In 2003, in collaboration with W. W. Norton & Company, Barnard College established the Barnard Women Poets Prize to publish an outstanding second collection by an American woman poet.  The prize is now held biennially.  

For details on the current prize and the most recent winner, visit our Women Poets "Contest" page.

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Recent Winners


The 2018 Barnard Women Poets Prize was awarded to Karen Skolfield.

Read the entire press release.

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The 2016 Barnard Women Poets Prize was awarded to Brittany Perham.

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The 2013 Barnard Women Poets Prize was awarded to Sandra Lim

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The 2011 Barnard Women Poets Prize was awarded to Traci Brimhall.

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The 2009 Barnard Women Poets Prize was awarded to Sandra Beasley for I Was the Jukebox, chosen by Joy Harjo.

Harjo writes of Beasley's work, "there is no wavering of image or sign. . . these poems are fresh, crisp and muscular...they are decisive and fearless." Harjo explains, "every object, icon or historical moment has a soul with a voice," and claims that, "in these poems these soulful ones elbow their way to the surface of the page, smartly into the contemporary now."

Beasley's first book, Theories of Falling, won the 2007 New Issues Poetry Prize.  Her recent poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Black Warrior Review, Cave Wall, Blackbird, and Poetry.  Honors for her work include the 2008 Poets & Writers Maureen Egen Exchange Award, the Elinor Benedict Poetry Prize, and fellowships to the Sewanee Writers' Conference, the Millay Colony, and Virginia Center for Creative Arts.  She serves on the Board of the Writer's Center and writes for the Washington Post Magazine in Washington, D.C.  She is at work on Don't Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from an Allergic Life.

Read the entire press release.

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The 2007 Barnard Women Poets Prize was awarded to Lisa Williams for Woman Reading to the Sea, chosen by Joyce Carol Oates.

In poems of “arresting intelligence, precision, and beauty” (Joyce Carol Oates), Lisa Williams takes on the subjects of beauty, language, nature, mortality, and myth in Woman Reading to the Sea.  Insistently musical, her second collection displays a wide variety of rhythms and forms, as well as an improvisational delight in the sounds of language.  “Lisa Williams takes us into eerily imagined worlds,” Oates writes, “the interior of a jellyfish, and the interior of a glacier; she beguiles us with the most seductive of poetic possibilities—that we might be absorbed into the consciousness of the beautiful and inarticulate world of nature.”

Lisa Williams is also the author of The Hammered Dulcimer, and was the recipient of the Rome Prize in 2004.  She teaches at Centre College and lives in Danville, Kentucky.  Woman Reading to the Sea will be published in 2008 by W.W. Norton & Co.  Williams read from the book as part of the 2008 Women Poets at Barnard series upon publication.

The 2006 Barnard Women Poets Prize was awarded to Cathy Park Hong for Dance Dance Revolution, chosen by Adrienne Rich.

Rich praised "the mixture of imagination, language and historical consciousness” in the book. “Hong's work is passionate, artful, worldly.  It makes a reader feel and think simultaneously, and rather then implying a nihilistic or negative vision of the future, it leaves this reader, at least, revitalized.”

Cathy Park Hong won a Van Lier Fellowship and a Pushcart Prize for her first book, Translating Mo'um.  She is also the recipient of a Fullbright Fellowship (South Korea), a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in poetry, and the Village Voice Mary Wright Fellowship for Minority Reporters.  She works as a freelance journalist and teaches at the New School in New York City.

Dance Dance Revolution will be published in 2007 by W.W. Norton & Co. Hong will read from the book as part of the 2007 Women Poets at Barnard series upon publication

The 2005 Barnard Women Poets Prize was awarded to Julie Sheehan for Orient Point.

Sheehan's first book, Thaw, won the 2000 Poets Out Loud Prize. Her poems have appeared in Parnassus, Paris Review, Raritan, Salmagundi, Ploughshares, Rattapallax, Southwest Review, Kenyon Review and Yale Review, among many others. In 2003, Paris Review awarded her the Conners Prize for "Brown-Headed Cowbirds." 

Poet Laureate Billy Collins recently chose "Hate Poem" for the forthcoming collection of poetry by Random House (2005), titled 180 More: Extraordinary Poems for Every Day.  Sheehan lives in Springs, Long Island.

Orient Point, will be published in 2006.  Sheehan will also give a public reading of her work as part of the distinguished Women Poets at Barnard series in 2006 to coincide with the publication of her book.

Read the entire press release.

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The 2004 Barnard Women Poets Prize was awarded to Tessa Rumsey for The Return Message.

Rumsey's first book, Assembling the Shepherd, won the 1998 Contemporary Poetry Series Competition and was published the University of Georgia Press in 1999.Rumsey's poems have recently appeared in Conjunctions, The Boston Review, The Washington Post, and Verse. 

Rumsey received her B.A. in liberal arts from Sarah Lawrence College, an M.F.A in creative writing from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and an M.A. in Visual Criticism from the California College of the Arts.  She lives in San Francisco.  

As part of the Women Poets at Barnard reading series, Rumsey read from her work to coincide with the publication of her book, The Return Message, which was be published by W.W. Norton in April 2005.

Read the entire press release.

The 2003 Barnard Women Poets Prize was awarded to Rebecca Wolff for her second book, Figment.

Wolff’s first book, Manderley, was selected for the 2000 National Poetry Series by Robert Pinsky, and received critical acclaim.  Publisher’s Weekly wrote that it "tears mosses off the old manse of Du Maurier's haunted classic Rebecca, tosses them with a heady late ’90s bravura."

Wolff earned a MFA from the Iowa Writers Workshop in 1993 and founded the literary journal Fence in 1997.  Her poems have appeared in Paris Review, Grand Street, Exquisite Corpse, and other journals.  She lives in New York City where she edits Fence and works as a freelance copyeditor.

Figment will be published by W. W. Norton & Co. in the spring of 2004, and Barnard will host a reading to celebrate the book.

Read the entire press release.

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