Devon Walker-Figueroa Wins 25th Annual Levis Reading Prize for 'Philomath'

July 27, 2022
A headshot of Devon Walker-Figueroa and the book cover of Philomath.

Devon Walker-Figueroa is the winner of the 2022 Levis Reading Prize for her poetry collection Philomath. The prize is awarded annually for the best first or second book of poetry published in the previous calendar year and chosen by the MFA in Creative Writing program at Virginia Commonwealth University.

The prize honors the memory of poet Larry Levis, who was a VCU faculty member at the time of his death in 1996. Walker-Figueroa will receive an award of $5,000 and will give a reading from her work at 7 p.m. on Friday, September 30  at James Branch Cabell Library. The in-person event will also be available online. Register here to attend.

Philomath, Walker-Figueroa’s debut full-length poetry collection, was published by Milkweed Editions in 2021 and has received national notice beyond the Levis Prize. The book was selected by Sally Keith for the 2020 National Poetry Series. Philomath was shortlisted for the National Book Critic Circle’s 2021 John Leonard Prize for Best First Book. Walker-Figueroa’s writing has also appeared in The Nation, POETRY, the American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, Zyzzyva, and elsewhere. She is a 2022-2023 Amy Lowell Traveling Scholar and the recipient of the New England Review’s 2018 Emerging Writer Award, the 2021 Poetry Society of America’s Lucille Medwick Award, and several notable scholarships.

Walker-Figueroa received her education at Cornell University, Bennington College, the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and New York University, where she was   the Jill Davis Fellow in fiction.

Philomath has received widespread acclaim for its insightful excavation of history, place, memory and myth. The poet melds ancient folklore with personal storylines that revolve around her childhood in the ghost towns of Kings Valley and nearby Philomath in the Oregon Coast Range.

In the Chicago Review of Books, Mandana Chaffa writes:

“There are also a number of ghosts in this collection: of family, friends, ancestors, even dreams and desires. These poems are the echoes of those spirits, and Walker-Figueroa channels them unvarnished, more memorable for their flaws than any buffed perfections. . . both forager and conjuror; on this land, in these forests, she’s able to express the concrete nature of humanity, as well as the inexplicable magic.”

In winning the Levis Reading Prize, Devon Walker-Figueroa joins a list of celebrated past recipients, including Leila Chatti for Deluge (Copper Canyon Press), Ilya Kaminsky for Deaf Republic (Graywolf Press), Jenny Xie for Eye Level (Graywolf Press), and Kaveh Akbar for Calling a Wolf a Wolf (Alice James Books), among many more.

This event is presented by the M.F.A. in Creative Writing Program in the VCU Department of English and VCU Libraries with additional support from Barnes & Noble @ VCU, the VCU College of Humanities and Sciences, and the family of Larry Levis.

For further information: Visit the Levis Prize website, call (804) 828-1329, or you  contact Katy Scarlett, 2022 Levis Reading Prize coordinator, at or Gregory Donovan, Ddrector of the Levis Reading Prize, at

Register to attend the September 30 reading.

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