The poetry award goes to Catherine Pierce for her collection, Danger Days. Born in Wilmington, Delaware, Pierce received a BA degree from Susquehanna University, an MFA degree from The Ohio State University, and a PhD from the University of Missouri. She has lived in Starkville, Mississippi, since 2007.
Her second book of poetry, The Girls of Peculiar, won the MIAL Poetry award in 2013. Other award-winning collections are Animals of Habit (2004), Famous Last Words (2008), and The Tornado is the World (2016). She is a two-time Pushcart Prize winner and the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Mississippi Arts Commission. Her works have appeared in Best American Poetry, Boston Review, Slate, Ploughshares, and Mississippi Review, among others.
In Danger Days, Pierce confronts the imminent threats of political and ecological collapse as seen through such diverse images as lockdown drills, carcinogens, retreating glaciers, horror movies, and quicksand. In a 2017 interview with Brooklyn Poets, she said, “The current political climate has prompted me to look even more closely at how language can be utilized and distorted—and also wielded by everyone.”
She is the co-director of the creative writing program at Mississippi State University. Her husband is the novelist Michael Kardos, also an MIAL winner. In the Brooklyn Poets interview, Pierce says she is lucky “to land in a state that really champions its artists.” In April of 2021, Pierce was named Mississippi’s Poet Laureate.