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UK Alumna Joy Priest Awarded Coveted Donald Hall Prize for Poetry

Joy Priest
UK College of Communication and Information alumna Joy Priest has been awarded the Association of Writers & Writing Programs Donald Hall Prize for Poetry for her first collection of poems.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Aug. 20, 2019) — From the Kentucky Kernel to a national award for poetry, a University of Kentucky alumna has taken her writing to the next level.

UK College of Communication and Information alumna Joy Priest has been awarded the Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) Donald Hall Prize for Poetry for her first collection of poems. The prize is part of the annual award series sponsored by AWP, a premiere organization for the literary industry. Each year the organization presents one award for creative nonfiction, one award for poetry (the Donald Hall Prize), one award for fiction and one award for short fiction. The Donald Hall Prize is open to poets at any stage of their careers.

Award recipients receive $5,500, sponsored by Amazon, a reading at the annual AWP conference and publication with the University of Pittsburgh Press.

Priest, a Louisville native, grew up on the backside of Churchill owns and based her first collection of poems titled, “Horsepower,” around her childhood. 

“Winning this award is a dream. Now I have to add more onto my dream, because at 30 years old I’ve accomplished the one thing I have wanted to do since I was a child — to write a book and publish it,” Priest said. “I was able to find out the news while I was home in the Bluegrass. I have to give a shout out to other Kentucky writers including Lance G. Newman, Hannah Drake, Mackenzie Berry, and Dorian Hairston.”

Priest credits her success to her time at UK. “The Kentucky Kernel was one of my homes at UK. I lived at my desk in the newsroom, and that position led directly to my career as a poet,” she said. “I was sitting up one night watching UK professor Nikky Finney receive the 2011 National Book Award. I reached out to her for an interview, and the rest is history. She became the most important teacher in my life, and I have been very blessed to be her student.”

Priest is also the recipient of the 2014 Kentucky Foundations for Women Artist Residency, the 2015 Emerging Artist Award from the Kentucky Arts Council, the 2016 College Writers’ Award for the Zora Neale Hurtson/Richard Wright Foundation, the 2018 Gregory Pardlo Scholar at The Robert Frost Place, the 2019 Nikki Giovanni Scholar at the Appalachian Writers’ Workshop, the 2019 Gearhart Poetry Prize from The Southeast Review, the 2019-2020 Fine Arts Work Center Fellowship in Poetry and two Kentucky Press Association Awards.

Priest hopes to continue her writing success and plans to earn her doctorate in the near future.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion two years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. The Chronicle of Higher Education judged us a “Great College to Work for," and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for three straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.