November 1, 2018 Poet Jorie Graham to Receive 2018 Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry

Reading Scheduled for Dec. 6 at the Library of Congress

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Jorie Graham will receive the 2018 Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry for her book “Fast.”

The Library of Congress will award the 2018 Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry to Jorie Graham for her 2017 book “Fast.”

Graham, who is the Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory at Harvard University, will receive the award and read selections from her work at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 6, in the Library’s James Madison Memorial Building, Mumford Room, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C. The reading is free and open to the public. Tickets are required and are available through this event ticketing site:

The 2018 prize is awarded for the most distinguished book of poetry written by an American and published in the preceding two years. Graham’s newest collection of poetry, “Fast,” was published by Harper Collins in May 2017.

The panel of judges for this year’s prize included Mojave American poet and Lannan Literary Fellow Natalie Diaz, selected by U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith; James Laughlin Award winner and Guggenheim Fellow Catherine Barnett, selected by Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden; and Betty Sue Flowers, former director of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library, selected by the Bobbitt family.

“In Jorie Graham's ‘Fast,’ ‘the year is 1490, 380, 1774, 10 BCE’ and the title describes the speed at which time leaps ahead and rewinds in this mortality-haunted, panic-inducing beauty of a collection as intellectual as it is felt,” the jury wrote. “Graham's astonishing abstract intelligence is tethered in almost every line by the sensory, by the music of language and wordplay, and by the material world that makes the red sleepmask a father cries out for in his last days into a metaphor for the human ‘timestorm’ we inhabit, share, grieve.”

Graham is the author of numerous collections of poetry, including “From the New World: Poems 1976-2014,” published in 2015; the Forward Prize-winning and T.S. Eliot Prize-nominated “Place,” published in 2012; and “The Dream of the Unified Field: Selected Poems 1974-1994,” which won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1996. She has also edited two anthologies, “Earth Took of Earth: 100 Great Poems of the English Language” in 1996 and “The Best American Poetry 1990.”

Graham’s honors include the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellowship and the Morton Dauwen Zabel Award from The American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. She is the recipient of the 2017 Wallace Stevens Award, the Nonino Prize in 2013 and the LA Times Book Award Prize in Poetry in 2016 for “From the New World.”

Graham is a former chancellor of The Academy of American Poets (1997-2003) and longtime faculty member of the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She is currently the Boylston Professor of Oratory and Rhetoric at Harvard University, a position first held by John Quincy Adams in 1806.

The biennial Bobbitt Prize, which carries a $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 can be viewed at

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

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PR 18-127
ISSN 0731-3527