The 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. In 2017, Poets & Writers was pleased to be able to increase the amount of the award from $50,000 to $60,000. 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 2017 Jackson Poetry Prize recipient is Patricia Spears Jones.
Poets Henri Cole, Kwame Dawes, and Mary Szybist served as judges. In selecting Ms. Spears Jones as the eleventh recipient of the prize, the judges issued the following citation:
“What is the color of Paradise? How would we know?” Patricia Spears Jones asks big questions and engages those questions in ways that are so startlingly unexpected, alive, and human that they feel like big answers. She interrogates not only the habits of thinking that America encourages but also the habits of feeling.
Hers is a poetics of dialogue, and her poems are in deep conversation with a dizzying array of other thinkers and artists, including Catullus, Billie Holiday, Rufino Tamayo, Pablo Neruda, Etta James, Sylvia Plath, Aretha Franklin, Jorge Luis Borges, Toni Morrison, Mary J. Blige, Kara Walker, Fats Domino, Kurt Cobain, and Jacques Derrida. She is engaged with painting, music, fashion, film, and theater in America and beyond its shores.
Patricia Spears Jones’ poems are made of fever, bones, and breath. The fever of eros, the bones of family and friends, and the breath of everyday existence. She is an accessible poet, but never boring.
Patricia Spears Jones has steadily and quietly enriched the American poetic tradition with sophisticated and moving poems. More of us should know who she is, and even more should read her.
Past Winners of the Jackson Poetry Prize
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