The Stanley Kunitz Award medal is presented annually to a person with a strong Worcester County (Mass.) connection who best exemplifies Stanley Kunitz’s life-long commitment to poetry and poets. The award recognizes the total commitment to poetry as Kunitz lived it: teaching poetry, mentoring poets, speaking poetry, publishing poetry, and supporting organizations that nurture poetry.
Nominations for the annual Stanley Kunitz medal open in December and close in March the following year. The award is typically announced in May with an award ceremony coinciding with Kunitz’s birthday in July.
Nominations including supporting documentation should be mailed to:
Worcester County Poetry Association
Attn: Stanley Kunitz Award Committee
PO Box 804
Worcester, MA 01613
The Stanley Kunitz medal may be presented annually to a person with a strong Worcester County connection who best exemplifies Stanley Kunitz’s lifelong commitment to poetry and poets.
The award was created to honor the total commitment to poetry in the way Kunitz exemplified it: teaching poetry, mentoring poets, speaking poetry, publishing poetry, and supporting organizations that nurture poetry.
The President of the WCPA will appoint a selection committee of five who will serve two years minimum. This Committee may or may not include members of the WCPA Board.
The Committee will develop a list of nominees including their qualifications for the award from submitted nominations.
Members of the WCPA, the staff of the Worcester Review, and all others with a strong interest in poetry, will be encouraged to nominate individuals. Each year the Committee will choose the award from among the nominees.
Members of the Stanley Kunitz Medal Committee will not be eligible for the award nor will they nominate individuals.
Following Stanley Kunitz’s death in 2006, a sum of money was given to the Worcester County Poetry Association for the purpose of creating an award in his name. An endowment was created with the Greater Worcester Community Foundation in support of the award. Additional fundraising took place to increase the fund to a level that would further support the award.
In 2013 a sub-committee of the WCPA board of directors set out to develop guidelines for the award. The guidelines were accepted by the board in October 2013. In 2014 K-Fai Steele was commissioned to create the bust image of Kunitz that is used on the award medal. The first Kunitz Award Committee was formed in mid-2014 and the inaugural award was presented in 2015.
Recent Past Winners
2022 – Tony Brown
Proclaimed a “Slam Poet Legend” by Poetry Slam International, Worcester poet Tony Brown has been selected as the 2022 Stanley Kunitz Medal recipient. Brown is widely known throughout Worcester’s poetry community and beyond. During nearly five decades of shepherding poetry from “the page to the stage,” he has established himself as a poet, essayist, teacher, pacesetter among slam team poets, editor, and venue host. Brown is cofounder of The Duende Project, a spoken word and music quartet that performs locally and along the East Coast, in addition to releasing six collections of their work. Brown’s daily blog, “Dark Matter,” attracts over 3000 readers, and his poems have garnered seven Pushcart Prize nominations.The Stanley Kunitz Medal originated with a bequest to the Worcester County Poetry Association from former Poet Laureate of the United States and Worcester native Stanley Kunitz (1905-2006). Brown’s award will be the eighth annual medal bestowed on a poet with a strong Worcester County connection who best exemplifies Kunitz’s lifelong commitment to poetry. The award recognizes a poet’s commitment to poetry as Kunitz lived it: teaching poetry, mentoring poets, speaking poetry, publishing poetry, and supporting organizations which nurture poetry. Also nominated this year were poets Curt Curtin, David Macpherson, and Laura Jehn Menides.Tony Brown received his medal at a ceremony presented by the Worcester County Poetry Association at the Worcester Historical Museum on Thursday, July 28th from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Visit the 2022 Kunitz Medal Presentation event page for details.
Worcester Magazine article “Worcester poet Tony Brown to receive Stanley Kunitz Medal”
Broadside – 2022 Kunitz Medal honoring Tony BrownDownload
Broadside design provided by Gary Hoare.
2021 – Eve Rifkah
Worcester, Mass., poet, editor and teacher Eve Rifkah has been chosen to receive the 2021 Stanley Kunitz Medal awarded through a bequest from two-time Poet Laureate of The United States and Pulitzer Prize winning poet and Worcester native Stanley Kunitz.The medal, awarded annually since 2015, is the seventh awarded to a person with a strong Worcester County (Mass.) connection who best exemplifies Stanley Kunitz’s (born in Worcester in 1905) life-long commitment to poetry and poets. The award recognizes the total commitment to poetry as Kunitz lived it: Teaching poetry, mentoring poets, speaking poetry, publishing poetry, and supporting organizations which nurture poetry.Poet and publisher of Tupelo Press Jeffrey Levine said of Rifkah’s poetry in Dear Suzanne, “[She] achieves what may be one of the contemporary artist’s most difficult purposes—to deliver moments of affirmation amid a tide of loss. In the doing, her lines come to us both in time and out of time, as with a nod to Virginia Wolf….”RIFKAH co-founded Poetry Oasis, Inc. (1998-2012), a non-profit poetry association dedicated to education and promoting local poets. She was the founder and editor of Diner, a literary magazine and earned her MFA from Vermont College. She also teaches poetry with the WISE program at Assumption University.Rifkah is the author of Dear Suzanne (WordTech Communications, 2010) and Outcasts: The Penikese Island Leper Hospital 1905-1921 (Little Pear Press 2010). Her next book Lost in Sight, will be coming out in 2021 from Silver Bow Publishing. Rifkah has published two chapbooks: Scar Tissue (Finishing Line Press, 2017), and At the Leprosarium, 2003 winner of the Revelever Chapbook Contest. Her single poems, flash fiction stories and essays have appeared in many journals.The medal ceremony will be the second of the summer following the 2020 Covid-postponed Susan Roney-O’Brien ceremony on July 22, 2021, at Broad Meadow Book Reservation in Worcester. Eve Rifkah will receive her medal at an event presented by the Worcester County Poetry Association at the Worcester Historical Museum on Thursday, August 19, 2021 at 6:30 p.m.
2020 – Susan Roney-O’Brien
Press Release – 2020 Kunitz MedalDownload
2019 – Fran Quinn
2018 – Judith Ferrara
2017 – Carle Johnson
2016 – Dan Lewis
The 2016 Stanley Kunitz Medal Award was presented to Dan Lewis on Thursday, July 28, 2016, in a ceremony held at Worcester Historical Museum.
2015 – Michael D True
Special thanks to Carol Stockmal for opening her home for the inaugural presentation ofthe Stanley Kunitz Award. Thank you, Carol, for all your support.
View the 2015 Kunitz Award Press Release.
Read the Worcester Telegram & Gazette story on the announcement.
Read the post event press coverage.Photos in the gallery below are courtesy of John Gaumond, John Hodgen and Robert Steele.
Learn more about Stanley Kunitz by visiting the following sites:
The Poetry Foundation Stanley Kunitz Page
Literary Landmark: Boyhood Home of Stanley Kunitz
the Paris Review interview with Stanley Kunitz
Stanley Kunitz Obituary in the New York Times
Poetry Everywhere with Garrison Keillor on PBS “Touch Me” by Stanley Kunitz
Judith Ferrara – Committee Chair
Joe Fusco Jr.
Heather J. Macpherson
Susan Elizabeth Sweeney
The WCPA wishes to thank the following individuals for serving on the Stanley Kunitz Medal Award Committee in the past.
Robert Steele (2014 – 2016)
E. Robert Cronin (2014 – 2018)
Rodger Martin (2014-2021)
Karen Sharpe (2019-2021)
Kent Ljunquist (2017-2021)