June 21, 2006 Library of Congress Seeks Nominations for 2006 Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt Poetry Prize

Press Contact: Donna Urschel (202) 707-1639
Public Contact: Jenny Rutland (202) 707-5394

The Library of Congress is seeking nominations from publishers for the 2006 Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry, which will be presented in the fall of 2006 for the best book of poetry published by a living U.S. author during the preceding two years (2004 and 2005). Applications must be submitted no later than Aug. 15. A large mailing of announcements, along with rules and application forms, will go out to publishers from the Library’s Poetry and Literature Center.

The $10,000 biennial prize is given by the family of the late Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt of Austin, Texas, in her memory. She was President Lyndon B. Johnson’s sister and, while a graduate student in Washington, during the 1930s, 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, once described how his parents used old index cards at the Library to pass notes to one another to further their romance. “Some time 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.

”When the Bobbitt Prize was first given in 1990, it was a milestone in the Library’s history. It was the first such award given by the Library since 1949, when the Joint Congressional Committee on the Library of Congress in 1949 adopted a policy prohibiting the Library from granting any more awards or prizes as a result of the controversy surrounding the Library’s awarding of the 1948 Bollingen Prize to Ezra Pound for his “Pisan Cantos.”

On April 15, 1988, however, the Joint Committee on the Library approved Librarian of Congress James H. Billington’s petition for the resumption of “the awarding of prizes by the Library of Congress in recognition of exceptionally meritorious achievements in the life of the mind, including works in biography, history, fiction, poetry and drama, as requested by the Librarian.” The Bobbitt Prize was the first literary prize to be offered and administered by the Library since the congressional approval took effect.

A four-person committee to select the three-person Bobbitt Prize jury for the 2006 award will convene in the near future, and will be made up of the Librarian of Congress, the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry, a publisher appointed by the Academy of American Poets and a literary critic appointed by the Bobbitt family. The prize jury will meet in the fall.

Only publishers may submit nominations for the prize. Entry forms should be accompanied by four copies of the nominated book, a $50 contribution made payable to the “Poetry and Literature Fund” of the Library of Congress and a stamped return postcard for receipt acknowledgment, and postmarked no later than Aug. 15, 2006. For further information, contact Jennifer Rutland at 202-707-5394 or at jeru@loc.gov.

The prizes are presented in even-numbered years:

  • 1990: James Merrill, “The Inner Room”
  • 1992: Shared by Louise Gluck, “Ararat,” and Mark Strand, “A Continuous Life”
  • 1994: A.R. Ammons, “Garbage”
  • 1996: Kenneth Koch, “One Train”
  • 1998: Frank Bidart, “Desire”
  • 2000: David Ferry, “Of No Country I Know: New and Selected Poems and Translations”
  • 2002: Alice Fulton, “Felt”
  • 2004: B.H. Fairchild, “Early Occult Memory Systems of the Lower Midwest”


PR 06-136
ISSN 0731-3527