Ali Cobby Eckerman and Carolyn Forché are the first poets to be recognised with the $160,000 (£130,000) Windham-Campbell Prizes, alongside six other writers.
The eight winners received the awards in recognition of their achievements and to support their work.
Eckermann is an Aboriginal poet and visual artist from South Australia who has published and performed her work around the world. Her debut collection of poetry, Little Bit Long Time, was published in 2009 as part of the New Poets Series of the Australian Poetry Centre. Since then, she has produced a "substantial and formally innovative" body of work, including the 2015 collection Inside My Mother (unpublished in the UK).
A native of Detroit, Forché is the author of five books of poetry, including the forthcoming In the Lateness of the World (Bloodaxe). Her work "illuminates some of the darkest moments in twentieth century history", including the Holocaust, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the Salvadoran Civil War. Forché is also professor of English and director of the Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice at Georgetown University, and has been recognised for her extensive work as an editor, translator, and human rights activist.
Other winners are André Alexis, author of Fifteen Dogs (Serpent's Tail), and Erna Brodber, whose latest novel Nothing's Mat is published by University of West Indies Press. Maya Jasanoff, author of The Dawn Watch: The Worlds of Joseph Conrad, which is forthcoming from William Collins, was a winner in the non-fiction category, as was Ashleigh Young, whose essay collection Can You Tolerate This will be published by Victoria University Press this year.
Irish playwright Marina Carr also won an award in the drama category, alongside Ike Holter from the US .
Established in 2013 with a gift from the late Donald Windham in memory of his partner of 40 years, Sandy M. Campbell, this year marks the fifth year of the prizes. English language writers from anywhere in the world are eligible and prize recipients are nominated confidentially and judged anonymously. The call that prize recipients receive from program director Michael Kelleher is the first time that they have learned of their consideration.
The Windham-Campbell Festival will take place from 13th to 15th September 2017 at Yale, and begins with an awards ceremony and an invited speaker who gives a talk entitled, “Why I Write.” This year’s keynote will be delivered by Karl Ove Knausgård.
The Windham-Campbell Prizes are administered by the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale.