Jennifer Willoughby earned her bachelor's degree from St. Catherine's University in St. Paul and her MFA in poetry from the University of Minnesota. For 15 years, she has worked as an advertising copywriter, writing poetry on the side. She has published poems in The Believer, the Boston Review, and the Indiana Review, as well as other places.
Her poetry manuscript, "Beautiful Zero," has been named winner of the Lindquist & Vennum Prize for Poetry, chosen from more than 150 submissions from poets across the Midwest. The Lindquist & Vennum Prize, offered by Milkweed Editions, carries a $10,000 honorarium and a publishing contract. Milkweed will publish Willoughby's book in November.
The judge for this year's competition was Santa Fe poet Dana Levin, who had this to say about Willoughby's book:
"You were born the weirdo that you are,” writes Jennifer Willoughby in her very alive first collection, "Beautiful Zero." With its sense of affection and straight talk, such a pronouncement sets the tone for these poems, whose speakers tumble and swerve as they urgently try to inhabit and describe the contours of being strange and alive in our electrified now. There’s a hint of dread, apprehension, to the speakers’ searches for connection and understanding, but the book’s primary argument seems to be for beauty, joy, surprise, release: “The world doesn’t want to see you / on your knees for more than a minute / when it could be inspecting a music / box that knew how to fly,” Willoughby writes in “Do Not Be Broken By This Day,” a poem whose title acts as command and charm.