Carnegie Mellon University
July 15, 2015

English Alumna Wins Major Poetry Prize

Marci CalabrettaMarci Calabretta

Marci Calabretta has won the 2015 Donald Hall Prize for Poetry. Part of the Association of Writers & Writing Programs Award Series, the award is given annually for excellent new book-length works.

Calabretta, who received her bachelor of arts degree in English from CMU’s Department of English and had an additional major in creative writing, won for “Hour of the Ox,” a collection of poetry about an immigrant family that will be published next year.

Poet Crystal Ann Williams, who judged the competition, called Calabretta “a poet of exceptional talent and grace” with “a voice as tough as it is tender.”

Williams added that she “wanted to read these poems again and again. They have created shadows that this reader continues to carry, explore – and savor.”

Calabretta has received poetry fellowships from Kundiman and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. During her senior year at CMU, she won the 2011 poetry award from the Albion Review, a national undergraduate literary magazine published by Albion College, for “Mother Ran off the American Base in South Korea.”

“Creative writing is an intense program where we are working with extremely talented and dedicated young writers who, when they graduate are competitive voices in the world of poetry, fiction and screenwriting,” said Sharon Dilworth, associate professor of English and Creative Writing Program director. “Our students write with remarkable skill, emotion, and, intense passion, and the national attention they receive is wonderful, but I must say, its not surprising.”

Dilworth continued, “It's rewarding for us to see them succeed, even at such a young age, but when we say that our students are excellent writers, we’re not just repeating a cliché. We know we have a strong writing program; we are extraordinarily proud of our alumni.”

Most recently Calabretta’s work has appeared in “Thrush,” “Lunch Ticket” and “American Letters & Commentary.” Her chapbook, “Last Train to the Midnight Market,” was published by Finishing Line Press. She is the co-founder and managing editor of “Print-Oriented Bastards” and assistant editor for “Jai Alai Magazine,” founded by P. Scott Cunningham as a subsidiary of O, Miami Poetry Festival. She has an MFA in creative writing from Florida International University.

Jim Daniels, the Thomas Stockham Baker University Professor of English, said that Calabretta winning the Donald Hall Prize is impressive.

“I had the pleasure of directing Marci’s Dietrich College Senior Honors Program thesis, and it was exciting to see her growth and development as a young poet. I don’t always recommend that students go straight to grad school from undergrad, but Marci was so focused, so motivated, and so talented, she was definitely ready. This distinguished prize will be a wonderful way for Marci’s fine, fine work to be introduced to the larger literary world,” Daniels said.

The Donald Hall Prize for Poetry is made possible by generous support from It is named after the award-winning, former U.S. Poet Laureate who has authored more than 45 books.

Learn more about the award.

Watch a video of Calabretta read her poem “Mother Ran off the American Base in South Korea.”

By Shilo Rea