David Ferry, Sophie Chantal Hart Professor Emeritus at Wellesley College, has been awarded the 2000 Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry for his book Of No Country I Know: New and Selected Poems and Translations (1999, University of Chicago Press).
The $10,000 award was presented on Dec. 18. Mr. Ferry read from his Bobbitt Prize-winning collection that evening at the Library. Joining Mr. Ferry in the program were former Bobbitt Prize winners Frank Bidart and Louise Glück and 1997-2000 Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry Robert Pinsky.
David Ferry, born in Orange, N.J., attended Amherst College and Harvard University, and served as a sergeant in the U.S. Army Air Force from 1943 to 1946. He joined the faculty of Wellesley College in 1952. His other collections of poetry and translation include The Eclogues of Virgil (1999), The Odes of Horace: A Translation (1998), Dwelling Places: Poems and Translations (1993), Gilgamesh: A New Rendering in English Verse (1992), Strangers: A Book of Poems (1983), On the Way to the Island (1960) and The Limits of Mortality: An Essay on Wordsworth's Major Poems (1959). His Epistles of Horace: A Translation will be published this year. Of No Country I Know also won the Academy of American Poets' 2000 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize and the Bingham Poetry Prize from Boston Book Review, and was a finalist for The New Yorker Book Award and the L.L. Winship/PEN New England Award.
The biennial Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry, a privately funded poetry prize given on behalf of the nation, recognizes the most distinguished book of poetry written by an American and published during the preceding two years. The prize is donated by the family of the late Mrs. Bobbitt of Austin, Texas, in her memory, and established at the Library of Congress. She was President Lyndon B. Johnson's sister. While a graduate student in Washington during the 1930s, Rebekah Johnson met college student O. P. Bobbitt when they both worked in the cataloging department of the Library of Congress. They married and returned to Texas.
The previous Bobbitt Prize recipients are James Merrill (1990), for The Inner Room; Louise Glück and Mark Strand (1992), for Ararat and The Continuous Life, respectively; A.R. Ammons (1994), for Garbage; Kenneth Koch (1996), for One Train; and Frank Bidart (1998), for Desire.
The winner of the 2000 Bobbitt Prize was chosen by a jury appointed by a selection committee composed of the Librarian of Congress, the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry, a publisher named by the Academy of American Poets and a literary critic nominated by the Bobbitt family. The original jury for this year's prize was Carol Muske, John Peck and Willard Spiegelman. When Ms. Muske was unable to continue to serve on the jury, literary critic Clarence Brown agreed to serve as its third member.