UMass Amherst Faculty Member and MFA Alumna Karen Skolfield’s ‘Battle Dress’ Wins Barnard Women Poets Prize

Karen Skolfield
Karen Skolfield

AMHERST, Mass. – The 2018 Barnard Women Poets Prize has been awarded to Karen Skolfield, a lecturer in the University of Massachusetts Amherst College of Engineering and a 1998 graduate of the MFA for Poets and Writers program.

A U.S. Army veteran who lives in Amherst, Skolfield won the prize for “Battle Dress,” her second collection of poems. 

Chosen this year by award-winning poet Rosanna Warren, the prize recognizes poems by an American woman poet, and has been awarded 10 times since 2003 when the collaboration between Women Poets at Barnard and W.W. Norton & Company began. Skolfield’s book will be published in the fall of 2019 by W.W. Norton & Company, and she will also receive $1,500 and give a reading at Barnard College upon the book’s release.

“Karen Skolfield’s latest work asks us to picture the life of a woman soldier, taking readers through barracks and battles in munificently inventive language, every element crackling with life,” said Warren. “‘Battle Dress’ is a terrific and sometimes terrifying collection–morally complex, rhythmic, tough-minded, and original. These poems show the imagination as the faculty that keeps us human.”

“I have a complicated relationship with the military,” said Skolfield. “I loved parts of it—the physical and mental challenges, the camaraderie among soldiers. Other parts—the morality of operations and war, certain military policies—eventually made me decide to leave. That internal conflict continues to be good material for my writing, and I’m honored that Women Poets at Barnard chose this collection.”

Skolfield is also the author of “Frost in the Low Areas” (Zone 3 Press, 2013), which won the 2014 PEN New England Award in poetry and the First Book Award from Zone 3 Press. She is the recipient of the 2016 Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize in poetry from The Missouri Review, the 2015 Robert H. Winner award from the Poetry Society of America, and the 2015 Arts & Humanities Award from New England Public Radio. Skolfield teaches writing to engineering students.

For more information on the Barnard Women Poets Prize, go to