A Philadelphia poet has won a prize worth about $47,000 for a collection of poetry inspired by her husband’s service in Iraq.
The University of Wales’ Dylan Thomas Prize honors literary work in English by a writer under 30.
Elyse Fenton is the first poet, and first American, to win the award. She describes herself as a modern-day war bride.
Peenesh Shah said his wife was not supposed to win — British bookies had her at the bottom of the list with 7-to-1 odds. But the judges had high praise for Fenton’s collection, titled “Clamor.”
Fenton wrote the poems based on her Internet and phone conversations with her husband while he was deployed as a medic in Iraq. Shah said he’s not always comfortable serving as his wife’s muse.
“When I first started seeing these poems, I often felt like the things she was describing didn’t really ring true for me,” said Shah. “I would see that she, as a poet, put details in that didn’t really represent my experience, or what had actually happened. I found it troubling.
“And I think it took me a while to understand that the faithfulness to my experience is irrelevant,” he said. “It’s really about her experience.”
Shah said Fenton, who is still reeling from the news, was on her way back to the United States. As winner of the prize, she will be giving a series of readings.
To learn more about Elyse Fenton and her writing, visit her website.