Jackson Poetry Prize

The $65,000 Jackson Poetry Prize honors an American poet of exceptional talent who deserves wider recognition. It was established in 2006 with a gift from the Liana Foundation and is named for the John and Susan Jackson family. Eligible poets must have published at least two books of acknowledged literary merit. The prize is designed to provide what all poets need: time and encouragement to write. There is no application process for the Jackson Poetry Prize; nominees are identified by a group of poets selected by Poets & Writers who remain anonymous; final selection is made by a panel of esteemed poets.

The 2019 Jackson Poetry Prize recipient is Joy Harjo. In June 2019, the Library of Congress announced that Harjo will be the next U.S. Poet Laureate, the first Native American named to the post. 

Joy Harjo (credit: Karen Keuhn)

Poets Ada Limón, Alicia Ostriker, and D. A. Powell served as judges. In selecting Harjo as the thirteenth recipient of the prize, the judges issued the following citation:

Fueled by a deep musicality and the indelible spirit, the poems of Joy Harjo are at once voraciously inventive and powerfully human. An important American poet who deserves an even wider recognition, Harjo’s work speaks not only to the world we live in, but to the unseen world that moves through us, the thread that has connected us all from the start. A member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, her work practices the art of complex self-excavation, historical and political examination, and the limitations of language itself all while honoring a tradition of storytelling. Harjo’s poems embody a rich physicality and movement; they begin in the ear and the eye, they go on to live and hum inside the body. In her poem “How to Write a Poem in a Time of War,” Harjo writes, “We used to see woodpeckers/The size of the sun, redbirds, and were greeted/By chickadees with their good morning songs./We’d started to cook outside slippery with dew and laughter, ah those smoky sweet sunrises./We tried to pretend war wasn’t going to happen.” Throughout her luminous and substantial body of work, there is a sense of timelessness, of ongoingness, of history repeating; these are poems that hold us up to the truth and insist we pay attention. 

Read the 2019 Press Release

Read our 1993 Interview with Harjo

Past Winners of the Jackson Poetry Prize

2018 - John Yau
Judges: Laura Kasischke, Robin Coste Lewis, Arthur Sze 

2017 - Patricia Spears Jones
Judges: Henri Cole, Kwame Dawes, Mary Szybist

2016 - Will Alexander
Judges: Elizabeth Alexander, Rae Armantrout, and Terrance Hayes

2015 - X. J. Kennedy
Judges:  Heather McHugh, Vijay Seshadri, and Rosanna Warren

2014 - Claudia Rankine
Judges: Tracy K. Smith, David St. John, and Mark Strand  

2013 - Arthur Sze
Judges: Reginald Gibbons, Natasha Trethewey, and C. D. Wright

2012 - Henri Cole
Judges: Louise Glück, Marilyn Hacker, and James Tate

2011 - James Richardson
Judges: Mark Doty, Rita Dove, and Gerald Stern

2010 - Harryette Mullen
Judges: Fanny Howe, Ted Kooser, and C. K. Williams

2009 - Linda Gregg
Judges: Brenda Hillman, Edward Hirsch, and Charles Simic

2008 - Tony Hoagland
Judges: Philip Levine, Robert Pinsky, and Ellen Bryant Voigt

2007 - Elizabeth Alexander
Judges: Lucille Clifton, Stephen Dunn, and Jane Hirshfield

View Photos of the 2018 Reception for John Yau

View Photos of the Tenth Anniversary Celebration