Ishion Hutchinson

Conjuring Jamaica and the world within, Ishion Hutchinson’s poetry surprises and stuns with formal innovation, musical clarity, and historical depth, illuminating life “after hurricanes” and “after Pompeii.”

Born in Port Antonio, Jamaica, Ishion Hutchinson is the author of two poetry collections: House of Lords and Commons (2016) and Far District (2010). Since the publication of his debut, Hutchinson has received numerous awards and honors, including a Guggenheim Fellowship (2017), a National Book Critics Circle Award (2016), and a Whiting Award (2013). Critic Dan Chiasson has described Hutchinson’s work as “punk-baroque and brat-belletristic”: his taut, tensile lines are marked not only by an unerring sense of the music of English and Jamaican patois, but by an astonishing and virtuosic mastery of sound and register. His poems flick from the continent to the islands and back again, tapping Martin Heidegger and Peter Tosh, Derek Walcott and Saint-John Perse, Sir Thomas Browne and Lee “Scratch” Perry. In almost every poem, Hutchinson returns to questions of empire and environment, and to the problem of what it means to be a finite, mortal creature in a finite, mortal world, blessed and cursed, remembered and remembering: “A cloud has eaten your voice and I your dust; / yes, you weigh heavily on me, friend, / who no longer knows the way to die.” A contributing editor to the journals The Common and Tongue: A Journal of Writing and Art, Hutchinson lives in Ithaca, New York, where he teaches in the creative writing program at Cornell University.

I’m overcome with joy, sudden joy and limitless gratitude, to be recognized with the Windham-Campbell Prize. Immense thanks to the selection committee. Above all, I accept it is as a seal of hope and a push towards harder work, to further risk wonder. ISHION HUTCHINSON