Porter Prize

aka: Porter Fund Literary Prize

The Porter Fund, established in 1984, is a not-for-profit unincorporated association founded in honor of Dr. Ben Kimpel, who was chairman of the English department at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County). It supports the written arts in the state of Arkansas, specifically by awarding an annual prize, which has been designated as the “Porter Prize,” to an Arkansas writer. (At Kimpel’s request, the prize was named in memory of his mother, Gladys Crane Kimpel Porter.) The prize is funded strictly with private donations and is presented annually at an awards ceremony to an Arkansas writer who has accomplished a substantial and impressive body of work that merits enhanced recognition. Its prize, $2,000, makes it one of the state’s most lucrative and prestigious literary awards.

Eligibility requires that the writer live in the state or be connected to Arkansas in some meaningful capacity. Honorees tend to be writers without high profile or national reputations but who have nevertheless produced a substantial and impressive body of work. The Porter Prize is not a contest. The winners are selected on a confidential basis by the past winners of the prize, who nominate and vote. In case of a tie, the award is shared.

Jack Butler, noted author of Living in Little Rock with Miss Little Rock, and Phillip H. McMath, attorney and writer (most notably of the Lost Kingdoms trilogy), founded the prize in 1984 in memory of Dr. Kimpel, their former teacher at UA. Five lifetime achievement awards have been bestowed, honoring Donald Harington (2004), Miller Williams (2009), Charles Portis (2014), Jo McDougall (2019), and Patricia Spears Jones (2024).

The prize winners are:

1985 Leon Stokesbury Poetry
1986 Buddy Nordan Fiction
1987 Donald Harington Fiction
1988 Paul Lake Poetry
1989 Hope Norman Coulter Fiction
1990 James Twiggs Fiction
1991 Crescent Dragonwagon Fiction
1992 Andrea Hollander Budy Poetry
1993 No prize was awarded
1994 Werner Trieschmann Playwriting
1995 Norman Lavers Fiction
1996 David Jauss Fiction
1997 Dennis Vannatta Fiction
1998 Michael Heffernan Poetry
1999 Grif Stockley Fiction
2000 Jo McDougall Poetry
2001 Morris Arnold Non-Fiction
Felda Brown Poetry
2002 Ralph Burns Poetry
2003 Kevin Brockmeier Fiction
2004 Michael Burns Poetry
2005 Shirley Abbott Non-Fiction
Constance Merritt Poetry
2006 Donald “Skip” Hays Fiction
2007 Greg Brownderville Poetry
2008 Trenton Lee Stewart Fiction
2009 Roy Reed Non-Fiction
2010 Bob Ford Playwriting
2011 William Harrison Fiction
2012 Margaret Jones Bolsterli Non-Fiction
2013 Pat Carr Fiction
2014 Mara Leveritt Non-Fiction
2015 Davis McCombs Poetry
2016 Sandy Longhorn Poetry
2017 Padma Viswanathan Fiction
2018 Tyrone Jaeger Fiction
2019 Qui Nguyen Playwriting
2020 Geffrey Davis Poetry
2021 Jen Fawkes Fiction
2022 Mark Barr Fiction
2023 Jay Jennings Non-Fiction

For additional information:
McMath, Philip H. “The Porter Prize’s Erudite Credentials.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, May 12, 2024, p. 2H. Online at https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2024/may/12/the-porter-prizes-erudite-credentials/ (accessed May 13, 2024).

Porter Prize. http://www.porter-prize.com/ (accessed August 10, 2023).

Phillip H. McMath
Porter Prize


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