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Freedom Plow Award for Poetry & Activism

Announcing the Inaugural Winner of the Freedom Plow Award for Poetry & Activism (2013)

Awarded to: Eliza Griswold for her work collecting and introducing the folk poems of Afghan women to America

Freedom Plow Award logo

The Freedom Plow Award for Poetry & Activism, made possible through the generosity of the CrossCurrents Foundation, recognizes and honors a poet who is doing innovative and transformative work at the intersection of poetry and social change. Judged by Martha Collins, Carlos Andrés Gómez, and E. Ethelbert Miller, it is being given for the first time in 2013. Finalists for the award are Jorge Argueta, Elana Bell, Tim Z. Hernandez, and Wang Ping.

Photo of Eliza Griswold

Eliza Griswold received a Guggenheim Fellowship for her ongoing work on water and poverty in America. Her first non-fiction book, The Tenth Parallel, was awarded the Anthony J. Lukas prize and was a New York Times bestseller. Her poetry and reportage has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, among many others. She's held fellowships at Harvard University and at the New America Foundation. Her collection of reportage and translations of Afghan folk poetry, I am the Beggar of the World, will be published in the Spring of 2014 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux with a second collection of her poems to follow.

In 2012 Griswold began traveling to rural Afghanistan with the photographer Seamus Murphy to collect landays, two-line folk poems written and recited by Afghan women. The landays, Murphy's photos, and Griswold's writings about the experience have introduced rural Afghan women -- an otherwise invisible population, despite more the than 10 years our two countries have been entangled in war -- to American readers and television viewers. Poetry Magazine devoted an entire issue to the landays and published Griswold's long essay on the documentation project, with photos, on their website.  She's written about the project for the NYTimes Magazine and it was profiled on the PBS NewsHour.

Read more about the award, view photos from the November 1, 2013 award ceremony, read the judges' statement, and watch a slideshow of all the finalists' work here.