November 9, 2010 Library of Congress Awards Lucia Perillo the Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry, Dec. 13

Contact: Donna Urschel (202) 707-1639

The Library of Congress will award the 2010 Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry to Lucia Perillo for her book “Inseminating the Elephant.”

Perillo will receive the award and read selections from her work at 8 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 13, in the Mumford Room on the sixth floor of the James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C. The reading is free and open to the public; tickets are not required.

The 2010 prize, the 11th to be given, is awarded for the most distinguished book of poetry published in the preceding two years, 2008 and 2009. “Inseminating the Elephant” was published by Copper Canyon Press in 2009.

Perillo’s poetry has been described as vibrant, lyric and full of interesting paradoxes: elegant adjectives paired with visceral images, and violence tempered by the possibilities of human compassion and language. The New Yorker magazine said the poems in “Inseminating the Elephant” were “tough and witty” and the topics in the book ranged from “Viagra and video games to Transcendentalism.” The book was a finalist for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry.

Perillo, who lives with her husband in Olympia, Wash., was born in 1958. In the 1960s, she grew up in the suburbs of New York City. After earning a degree in wildlife management from McGill University in Montreal, she worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. She earned a master’s degree in English from Syracuse University, and has taught at Syracuse, Saint Martin’s University in Lacey, Wash., and at Southern Illinois University.

In her 30s, Perillo was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She has written about her illness with humor and honesty ever since, but her poetry is not totally defined by it.

Her books of poetry include “Luck is Luck” (2005); “The Oldest Map with the Name America” (1999); “The Body Mutinies” (1996); and “Dangerous Life” (1989), which won a Pushcart Prize. In 2007 she wrote a book of essays “I’ve Heard the Vultures Singing: Field Notes on Poetry, Illness, and Nature.”

Perillo contributes to the Atlantic, The New Yorker and Kenyon Review. Her poems have appeared in the anthologies “Best American Poetry” and “Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses.” She was awarded a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 2000.

The Bobbitt Prize, a biennial $10,000 award, recognizes a book of poetry written by an American and published during the preceding two years, or the lifetime achievement of an American poet. The prize is donated by the family of 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.

Past Winners of the Bobbitt Prize

  • 2008 Charles Wright for Lifetime Achievement & Bob Hicok for “This Clumsy Living”
  • 2006 W.S. Merwin for “Present Company”
  • 2004 B.H. Fairchild for “Early Occult Memory Systems of the Lower Midwest”
  • 2002 Alice Fulton for “Felt”
  • 2000 David Ferry for “Of No Country I Know: New and Selected Poems”
  • 1998 Frank Bidart for “Desire”
  • 1996 Kenneth Koch for “One Train”
  • 1994 A.R. Ammons for “Garbage”
  • 1992 Louise Glück for “Ararat” & Mark Strand for “The Continuous Life”
  • 1990 James Merrill for “The Inner Room”


PR 10-255
ISSN 0731-3527