Throwing the Crown is the 2018 winner of The American Poetry Review/Honickman First Book Prize, selected from over 900 manuscripts. This year’s guest judge, Gregory Pardlo, says:
"What if one of Gwendolyn Brooks’ seven young men at the Golden Shovel pool hall decided he wasn’t particularly interested in “lurking late” or “jazzing June”? Let’s imagine his leaving school one day was, at least for him, a fleeting act of rebellion. What if, instead of succumbing to the collective fate foretold in the final couplet of that famous poem by Brooks, “We Real Cool,” this young man—let’s call him “Jacob”—applied himself in school and became a poet? …More than a thought experiment, Jacob Saenz’s debut collection Throwing the Crown quietly defies the old narratives that portray young men in cities like Chicago as anonymous statistics and cautionary tales."
Throwing the Crown explores of themes boyhood, masculinity, Latinx identity, gang culture, family, and love. With subtle lyricism, the poems in this book investigate topics such poverty through the lens of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, profiling by police and gangbangers, the origin of the word ‘bachelor’ and its meanings for today’s society.