December 22, 2014 (REVISED February 25, 2015) Library Awards Patricia Smith the Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry

Reading Scheduled for April 6, 2015

Press Contact: Donna Urschel (202) 707-1639
Public Contact: Robert Casper (202) 707-5394
Contact: Request ADA accommodations five business days in advance at (202) 707-6362 or ada@loc.gov

The Library of Congress will award the 2014 Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry to Patricia Smith for her book “Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah.”

Smith will receive the award and read selections from her work at 7 p.m. on Monday, April 6, 2015, in the Montpelier Room on the sixth floor of the James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave., S.E., Washington, D.C. (The event was rescheduled from an earlier date due to inclement weather.) The reading is free and open to the public. Tickets are not needed.

The 2014 prize—the 13th to be given—is awarded for the most distinguished book of poetry published in the preceding two years, 2012 and 2013. “Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah” was published by Coffee House Press in 2012.

The book has received the Academy of American Poets 2013 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize as the most outstanding book of poetry published in the United States in 2012, and was a finalist for both the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America and the Balcones Prize. In a review, Publisher’s Weekly said the book focuses on “the stinging memories of growing up black and a woman during the 1960s,” and that “Smith’s mastery of rhyme, rhythm and form, […] runs like an electric current throughout the collection.”

Smith is the author of six poetry collections, including “Blood Dazzler” (Coffee House Press, 2008), a finalist for the National Book Award, and “Teahouse of the Almighty” (Coffee House Press, 2006) a National Poetry Series selection. She also edited the crime fiction anthology “Staten Island Noir” (Akashic Books, 2012) and co-wrote a children’s book with author Aaron Boyd, “Janna and the Kings” (Lee & Low Books, 2003).

Smith’s other honors include the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award in Poetry, the Carl Sandburg Literary Award, the Paterson Poetry Prize, multiple Pushcart prizes, and the Rattle Poetry Prize. Smith was inducted into the International Literary Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent and is the recipient of fellowships from both the MacDowell Colony and Yaddo. A four-time National Poetry Slam individual champion, she is the most successful slammer in the competition’s history.

Smith was born in Chicago in 1955, and lives in Howell, N.J. with her husband, the Edgar Award-winning author Bruce DeSilva.

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:

  • 2012 Gerald Stern for “Early Collected Poems: 1965–1992”
  • 2010 Lucia Perillo for “Inseminating the Elephant”
  • 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”

The Poetry and Literature Center at the Library of Congress fosters and enhances the public’s appreciation of literature. The center administers the endowed chair, U.S. Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry; coordinates an annual season of readings, performances, lectures and symposia; and sponsors prizes and fellowships for literary writers. For more information, visit www.loc.gov/poetry/.

The Library of Congress, the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution and the largest library in the world, holds more than 158 million items in various languages, disciplines and formats. The Library serves the U.S. Congress and the nation both on-site in its reading rooms on Capitol Hill and through its award-winning website at www.loc.gov.

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PR 14-212
2014-12-22
ISSN 0731-3527