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The Academy of American Poets, the nation's leading champion of poets and poetry, selected Morales for the prestigious award.
Edgar Morales '24 was selected as the 2023 winner of the Academy of American Poets' Aliki Perroti and Seth Frank Most Promising Young Poet Award. The award was announced as part of the 2023 American Poets Prizes, many of which are among the most prestigious poetry prizes in the United States.
Morales was eligible for the honor as a winner of the academy's University and College Poetry Prizes, which recognize students 23 years old or younger across the country. Many of America's most esteemed poets won their first recognition through this program, including Louise Glück, Sylvia Plath, and Robert Pinsky.
As winner of the Most Promising Young Poet Award, Morales received a $1,000 stipend and he and his winning poem, Swim, are featured on the academy's website and in American Poets magazine.
An English major with concentrations in creative writing and Latin American, Latino, and Caribbean studies, Morales has published work in Hipocrita Lector and Hands that Speak: Voices from the Upper Valley Dairy Farms, a bilingual collection of investigative journalism, critical essays, and photography focused on migrant workers in the Upper Valley.
"We are thrilled that the Academy of American Poets has recognized Edgar with this prestigious award," says professor Peter Orner, chair of the English and Creative Writing department. "It is an honor to be affiliated with such a talented young poet and this distinguished organization which has connected millions of people to great poetry."
Morales began writing poetry during the spring of his first year at Dartmouth after reading The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo. He wrote Swim during an intermediate poetry workshop with English and creative writing professor Matthew Olzmann.
"The prompt was to write about where we come from," Morales says. "Intuitively, I began to write about my mother, her womb—this liminal space of security, peace, love, and fear. I started to think about the moment this liminal space was punctured: my birth. Now, I view 'Swim' as a reminder of my mother and her strength."
Academy of American Poets Chancellor Dorriane Laux wrote of Swim: "The pleasures of Edgar Morales's poem Swim are many. I love the way the poem moves fluidly between two worlds, the world of the womb and the Yosemite Pool where the poet's mother learned to swim while pregnant. How we move through the trimesters of gestation, kicking off the walls of the womb as the mother kicks off the side of the pool. The small fact I learned: that the mother breathes in 'double the amount of oxygen' and pumps ninety percent of it to the fetus. That we are pushed 'into a world that warns / you of the dangers of drowning without teaching you how to swim.' The final line again praises the mother in her generosity, reminding us of the daily sacrifices she makes to bring a new body into the world."
Morales views his poetry as a way "to reconstruct formative facets or moments of my life."
"I had just moved from home for the first time, which brought feelings of nostalgia, guilt, and loneliness," he says. "I'm also a forgetful person and so I view my poetry as an attempt to immortalize and remember my own life."
Morales joins a growing number of Dartmouth students who have received major poetry and creative writing awards, such as Tom Bosworth '22, who was honored with the 2023 Glascock Poetry Prize earlier this year.
The nation's leading champion of poets and poetry, the Academy of American Poets leads programs including National Poetry Month, the largest literary celebration in the world; Poets.org, one of the leading poetry sites online; American Poets, a biannual magazine; an annual series of poetry readings and special events; and its education programs.