“We Play a Game,” a manuscript by Duy Doan, has been chosen the winner of the 2017 Yale Series of Younger Poets competition.
“If games figure in Duy Doan’s ‘We Play a Game,’ they do so much more seriously, and resonantly, than the title alone suggests,” says Carl Phillips, the judge for the competition. “For game here can mean as well the strategies for weathering those parts of society that threaten identity itself, at the level of gender (in all its fluidity), or race, of family as history and tradition — of language, too, and our expectations for it. Wide-ranging in subject, Doan’s poems include boxing, tongue twisters, hedgehogs, Billy Holiday, soccer and, hardly least of all, a Vietnamese heritage that butts up against an American upbringing in ways at once comic, estranging, off-kiltering. Doan negotiates the distance between surviving and thriving, and offers here his own form of meditation on, ultimately, childhood, history, culture — who we are, and how — refusing all along to romanticize any of it.”
Yale University Press will publish “We Play a Game” in April 2018. The manuscript is Phillips’s seventh selection as judge and the 112th volume in the series. His sixth selection, Airea D. Matthews’s “Simulacra,”will be published by Yale University Press on March 28, 2017.
Duy is a Vietnamese American poet from Texas. A Kundiman fellow, he received his M.F.A. in poetry from Boston University. His poems have appeared in Slate, The Cortland Review, Best Emerging Poets: Stay Thirsty Magazine, Amethyst Arsenic, and elsewhere. A recipient of awards from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and the St. Botolph Club Foundation, Duy has taught at Boston University, Lesley University, and the Boston Conservatory. He is the director of the Favorite Poem Project, which celebrates the role of poetry in the lives of Americans. He lives in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts.
Awarded since 1919 by Yale University Press, the Yale Series of Younger Poets prize celebrates the most prominent new American poets by bringing the work of these artists to the attention of the larger public. Earlier winners of the prize include Adrienne Rich, John Ashbery, Jack Gilbert, Jean Valentine, and Robert Hass. It is the longest-running poetry prize in the United States.
Yale University Press will also continue its partnership with The James Merrill House. Winners of the series will receive one of the five writing fellowships offered at The James Merrill House in Stonington, Connecticut. The fellowship provides a furnished living space and daily access to James Merrill’s apartment for a writer in search of a quiet setting to complete a project of literary or academic merit.
The following excerpt is from Duy’s poem “Love Trinkets,” from the forthcoming “We Play a Game.”
You said it was a starling once.
The gold in the bird's feathers
got left behind.
The wind plays tax collector, the mountain
alchemist. The starling, black all over.
Your family gave my family a dowry.
I kept the bills folded, clipped together
in a pillowcase close to my ear.
The path the black bird takes
we will travel, until we arrive
at a screened porch. Arboretum
within walking distance.
You promised me.