“Poems made of fever, bones, and breath”

New York, NY – April 18, 2017 – Patricia Spears Jones is the eleventh winner of the Jackson Poetry Prize. Poets & Writers, the New York­­–based service organization for creative writers, annually awards the Jackson Poetry Prize to an American poet of exceptional talent who deserves wider recognition. The $50,000 prize is among the most substantial given to an American poet and is designed to provide what all poets need: time and encouragement to write.

A panel of three esteemed poets—Henri Cole, Kwame Dawes, and Mary Szybist—was charged with selecting the winner from a group of twenty nominees. (Both the nominees and nominators remain anonymous.) In their citation, the judges describe her poems as “made of fever, bones, and breath.” Spears Jones, the judges say, “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.” 

Read the full citation.

Patricia Spears Jones (credit: Rachel Eliza Griffiths)

About Patricia Spears Jones

Patricia Spears Jones is a Brooklyn-based African American poet. Her most recent collection of poems, A Lucent Fire: New and Selected Poems, published by White Pine Press in 2015, was a finalist for the Poetry Society of America’s 2016 William Carlos Williams Prize, as well as for the Paterson Poetry Prize. Her earlier books include Painkiller (Tia Chucha Press, 2010), Femme du Monde (Tia Chucha Press, 2006), and The Weather That Kills (Coffee House Press, 1995). Previous honors include a 2016 Pushcart Prize, a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship, and awards from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, Goethe-Institut, the New York Foundation for the Arts, Foundation for Contemporary Arts, and the New York Community Trust.

Born in Arkansas, Spears Jones was educated at Rhodes College and earned her MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is an active member of the literary community as a curator, editor, and teacher. She was the program coordinator for the Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church in New York, curated the reading series Words Sunday in Brooklyn, and has participated in residencies at the Virginia Center for Creative Arts, Bread Loaf Writers Conference, Yaddo, and the Millay Colony. She is a contributing editor to BOMB magazine and a senior fellow at Black Earth Institute, a progressive think tank. Spears Jones has led writing workshops at literary centers including Cave Canem, Poets House, and the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley, and has upcoming engagements at the Fine Arts Works Center in Provincetown and Gemini Ink in San Antonio. Mabou Mines, the internationally acclaimed theater company, has commissioned and produced two plays by Spears Jones. She is a lecturer at LaGuardia Community College and is on the faculty of a new interdisciplinary MFA program in Creative Writing and Technology at Bloomfield College in Bloomfield, NJ.

About The Jackson Prize

The Jackson Poetry Prize is endowed by a gift from the Liana Foundation and is named for the John and Susan Jackson family. There is no application process; poets are nominated by a panel of their peers who remain anonymous. Previous recipients of the Jackson Poetry Prize are Will Alexander (2016), X. J. Kennedy (2015), Claudia Rankine (2014), Arthur Sze (2013), Henri Cole (2012), James Richardson (2011), Harryette Mullen (2010), Linda Gregg (2009), Tony Hoagland (2008), and Elizabeth Alexander (2007).

Poets & Writers will host a reading and reception in honor of Patricia Spears Jones in New York City on May 23. 

About Poets & Writers

Founded in 1970, Poets & Writers is the nation’s largest nonprofit literary organization serving poets, fiction writers, and creative nonfiction writers. Our work is rooted in the belief that literature is vital to sustaining a vibrant culture. We focus on nurturing literature’s source: creative writers. Our mission is to foster the professional development of poets and writers, to promote communication throughout the literary community, and to help create an environment in which literature can be appreciated by the widest possible public. Learn more at

Contact Melissa Ford Gradel, Managing Director, at or 212-226-3586 x223.