The distinguished Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry, created 20 years ago, has been awarded to two poets who teach at universities in Virginia: Bob Hicok of Virginia Tech and Charles Wright of the University of Virginia.
Hicok and Wright received the 2008 award and read selections of their work at the Library on April 28.
The biennial prize, the tenth to be given, was split between Hicok, who was awarded the prize for his book “This Clumsy Living,” published in 2007 by the University of Pittsburgh Press, and Wright, who was honored for lifetime achievement.
The $10,000 prize recognizes a book of poetry written by an American and published during the preceding two years and/or the lifetime achievement of an American poet. The prize is donated by the family of the late Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt of Austin, Texas, in her memory, and awarded at the Library of Congress.
Bobbitt was President Lyndon B. Johnson’s sister. While a graduate student in Washington, D.C., 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.
Bob Hicok was born in 1960. He is an assistant professor of English at Virginia Tech. Hicok has published five books of poetry: “This Clumsy Living” (2007); “Insomnia Diary” (2004); “Animal Soul” (2001), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; “Plus Shipping” (1998); and “The Legend of Light” (1995), which was an American Library Association Booklist Notable Book of the Year and won the 1995 Felix Pollak Prize in Poetry. Hicok’s accomplishments include two Pushcart Prizes, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and publication in three volumes of Best American Poetry.
Charles Wright was born in 1935. He is the Souder Family Professor of English at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. He received a bachelor’s degree from Davidson College and a master’s from the University of Iowa. His most recent works include “Littlefoot: A Poem” (2007) and “Scar Tissue” (2006), which was the international winner of the Griffin Poetry Prize. Wright won the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for “Black Zodiac” (1997). Additional honors and accolades include the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award of Merit Medal, an Ingram Merrill Fellowship in Poetry, a Guggenheim Fellowship in Poetry, and two awards from National Endowment for the Arts. Wright became a Chancellor of The Academy of American Poets in 1999.
The winners of the 2008 Bobbitt National Prize were chosen by three jurors: Mark Doty, the John and Rebecca Moores Professor of English in the graduate program at the University of Houston; Betty Sue Flowers, the director of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum, who is a critic, poet and former English professor at the University of Texas at Austin; and Ira Sadoff, the Dana Professor of Poetry at Colby College.