A portrait of Andres Montoya next to a book cover of Montoya's book, titled "The Iceworker Sings and Other Poems"
The Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize will be based at UC Davis. Montoya is author of “The Iceworker Sings and Other Poems,” winner of the Chicano/Latino Literary Prize and the American Book Award. (Andrés Montoya photo (left): Francisco Dominguez)

Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize Comes to UC Davis

When the Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize comes to UC Davis this fall, it will be a kind of homecoming. California’s Central Valley was Montoya’s native region; his brother Maceo Montoya is a professor and their father Malaquias Montoya is a professor emeritus, both at UC Davis.

“Andrés’ poetry was rooted in Fresno and the Central Valley, but Andrés also viewed his own work and Chicano poetry more broadly as part of world literature,” said Maceo Montoya, a professor in Chicana and Chicano studies and creative writing in the College of Letters and Science. “The prize is an important vehicle to continue elevating and promoting Latinx literature and insisting that our poetry be part of these larger conversations.” 

The Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize is open to Latinx poets residing in the United States who have yet to publish a full-length poetry collection. Submissions for the prize open Nov. 1 and close Feb. 16, 2024. The juror will be former U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera. Visit andresmontoyapoetry.com for submission guidelines. 

Established in 2004, it has been overseen by Francisco Aragón, founder and director of Letras Latinas, the literary initiative at the University of Notre Dame’s Institute for Latino Studies.  

At UC Davis it will be administered by Maceo Montoya and León Salvatierra, a poet and faculty member in the Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies. The relocation of the award is part of an initiative around  Huizache: The Magazine of a New America, which Maceo Montoya became editor of last fall and that is now based at UC Davis. 

A celebrated voice cut short

Andrés Montoya’s first poetry collection The Iceworker Sings and Other Poems, published in 1999, won the Chicano/Latino Literary Prize and went on to win the American Book Award. He passed away from leukemia in 1999 at the age of 31. A posthumous collection, a jury of trees, was co-published in 2017 by Bilingual Press and Letras Latinas, and a symposium “Together We’ll Be a Song: A Celebration of Andrés Montoya” was held the following year at California State University, Fresno, where he was student body president as an undergraduate. 

Letras Latinas, in partnership with University of Notre Dame Press, is preparing an anthology of poetry inspired by the first 10 editions of the prize and will continue to support the prize by inviting future winners to read at Notre Dame.  

“We’ve been stewards of the Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize for 20 years and feel that it is a good time to pass the baton and breathe new life into this gesture in Andrés Montoya’s native region,” said Aragón, a poet and an alumnus of UC Davis’ creative writing program. “And who better to be crucially involved in this next phase than Andrés’ brother? The prize will be in good hands.” 

The winning book will be announced May 18, 2024, on what would’ve been Andrés Montoya’s 56th birthday, and will be published as part of the University of Nevada Press New Oeste Series. Salvatierra, along with author Daniel A. Olivas, co-founded the New Oeste Series to showcase the diverse creative expression of Latinx writers in the American West. 

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