Jackson Poetry Prize Honors Sandra Lim
Top left: From left: Susan Jackson with Jackson Poetry Prize winners Patricia Spears Jones (2017), Sandra Lim (2023), and John Yau (2018). Top right: Lim signs copies of her poetry collection The Curious Thing (Norton, 2021) at a reception in her honor. Bottom left: Lim reads her work at the National Arts Club. Bottom right: Lim (second from right) with reception guests. (Photos by: Christian Rodriguez)
In April, Poets & Writers named Sandra Lim the 2023 recipient of the Jackson Poetry Prize, one of the nation’s most generous awards for poets. Awarded annually to an American poet of exceptional talent, the prize was established in 2006 with a gift from the Liana Foundation and is named for the John and Susan Jackson family. This year’s prize carries a monetary value of $85,000.
Lim, the author of three books of poetry, is a professor of English at the University of Massachusetts in Lowell. Upon learning that she won this year’s Jackson Poetry Prize, Lim said: “I’m gobsmacked—but so grateful to the judges for their encouragement. I am heartened by their belief in my work; it emboldens me to no end.” Commenting later to the Boston Globe about the impact of the award, Lim wrote, “I like thinking of the money as something that helps create space for the imagination—for delicious moments of license and immunity. I know that whatever it is I do with it, it will somehow serve the next poem, or poems.”
There is no application process for the Jackson Poetry Prize; poets are nominated by a panel of their peers who remain anonymous. Lim was selected by three esteemed judges who are all previous recipients of the award: John Yau (2018), Joy Harjo (2019), and Carl Phillips (2021). In selecting Lim as the seventeenth winner of the prize, the judges issued a citation about her body of work that reads, in part:
It’s tempting to think of Sandra Lim as a philosopher poet, in the school of Marcus Aurelius—her poems address the conundrum of being a self with fears and feelings in spite of the mortality that should in theory put us at ease. Wielding a striking combination of cool detachment and sly humor, Lim constantly points to the mundane aspects of the world and to how we nevertheless cling to them, always expecting something more…. Lim confronts the larger, defining abstractions of our lives—love, death, betrayal, the power dynamics of body and soul—in poems that ultimately defy easy category, refuse expectation, and have quietly challenged and reinvigorated the possibilities for what a poem can do, and how. It’s a poetry of interrogation, whose fierceness lies, paradoxically, in its quiet steadiness and precision.
In June, Poets & Writers hosted a reading and reception in Lim’s honor at the National Arts Club in New York City. The event brought together dozens of members of the literary community, including members of the Jackson family, Poets & Writers’ board and staff, and previous Jackson Poetry Prize winners Patricia Spears Jones (2017) and John Yau. This fall, Poets & Writers will host an online reading by Lim, open to all. To learn more, visit pw.org/jacksonprize.