Jackson Poetry Prize

The $60,000 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 2018 Jackson Poetry Prize recipient is John Yau.


 John Yau (credit: Eve Aschheim)


Poets Laura Kasischke, Robin Coste Lewis, and Arthur Sze served as judges. In selecting Mr. Yau as the twelfth recipient of the prize, the judges issued the following citation:

John Yau composes expansive variations, in series, that simultaneously widen, deepen, and complicate the scope of a poem. Visual art, film, and Surrealism are rivers in his work, yet it’s Yau’s dazzling imagination and singular command of language that create unforgettable poems: “Now that the seven wonders of the night / have been stolen by history //Now that the sky is lost and the stars / have slipped into a book // Now that the moon is boiling / like the blood where it swims // Now that there are no blossoms left / to glue to the sky // What can I do,  / I who never invented anything // and who dreamed of you so much / I was amazed to discover // the claw marks of those / who preceded us across this burning floor.” In employing voices that reveal the multiple and shadowy selves inside the self, in lyrical poems with an experimental and innovative bent, yet laced with unexpected and biting humor—“I wink at you from infinity”—in twenty-four books of poetry, fiction, essays, and collaborations with visual artists—many of which are out of print—John Yau has created a compelling body of work.  

Read the 2018 Press Release

Arthur Sze at the Jackson Poetry Prize Tenth Anniversary Dinner, October 18, 2016. (Credit: Margarita Corporan)

View More Photos from the Tenth Anniversary Celebration

View Photos of the 2018 Reception for John Yau

View Photos of the 2017 Reception for Partricia Spears Jones

Past Winners of the Jackson Poetry Prize

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