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June 5, 2002

2002 Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry for the Most Distinguished Book of Poetry Published in 2000 or 2001

The 2002 Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry of the Library of Congress will be presented in October 2002 for the best book of poetry published by a living United States author during the preceding two years (i.e., during 2000 or 2001). The $10,000 biennial prize is given by the family of the late Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt of Austin, Tex., in her memory.

Rebekah Johnson was the late President Lyndon B. Johnson's sister. While a graduate student in Washington, D.C., during the 1930s, she was an employee of the Library of Congress, where she met co-worker and college student O. P. Bobbitt, whom she later married. Their son, Philip C. Bobbitt, relates:

"After my mother's death, I discovered a cache of old index cards apparently used as surreptitious notes under the eyes of a superintendent who supposed perhaps that mother was typing Dewey decimals. The long campaign by which my father moved, successively, from conspiratorial co-worker to confidante to suitor, was partly played out in the indexing department of the Library. Sometime after my mother's death, my father and I decided to endow a memorial in her honor and, owing to the history I have described, the Library of Congress was suggested as a possible recipient of this memoriam."

A four-person committee to select the three-person Bobbitt Prize jury for the 2002 award will convene in June, and will be made up of the Librarian of Congress, the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry, Billy Collins, a publisher appointed by the Academy of American Poets, and a literary critic appointed by the Bobbitt family. The prize jury will convene by mid- September.

Nominations for the prize may be submitted by publishers only. A large mailing of announcements, along with rules and application forms, will go out to publishers from the Library's Poetry and Literature Center shortly. Entries should be accompanied by the entry form, four copies of the nominated book, a $25 contribution made payable to the "Poetry and Literature Fund" of the Library of Congress, and a stamped return postcard so that the Library may acknowledge receipt, and should be postmarked no later than July 15, 2002. Publishers are urged to be selective in their nominations and encouraged to send entries via a private carrier, such as Fed Ex, because of recent delays in the regular mail.

For purposes of the prize, a book is precisely defined as follows: a collection of printed leaves that have been folded, secured by adhesive along the binding edge in a perfect binding, (i.e., no saddle-stitched or stapled binding) and bound and published in a standard edition of not less than 1,000 copies. A first book or book composed of new work will qualify; collected and selected works will qualify only if they include at least 30 new poems previously unpublished in book form.

The first of these prizes, presented in even-numbered years, was awarded to James Merrill in 1990 for his collection, The Inner Room; the second, in 1992, was shared by Louise Gl├╝ck (for Ararat) and Mark Strand (for A Continuous Life). Subsequent recipients were A. R. Ammons (1994), for Garbage ; Kenneth Koch (1996), for One Train; Frank Bidart (1998), for Desire ; and David Ferry (2000), for Of No Country I Know: New and Selected Poems and Translations.

The Library will announce the recipient of this year's award in early October 2002, and the prize-winning author will give a public reading at the Library later that month.

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PR 02-079
06/05/02
ISSN 0731-3527

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