Bobbitt Prize

The biennial, privately funded $10,000 Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry, first awarded to James Merrill in 1990 for The Inner Room, is awarded biennially to an American poet for the most distinguished book of poetry published during the preceding two years, or for lifetime achievement in poetry. The prize is donated by the family of the late Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt of Austin, Tex., in her memory, and established at the Library of Congress.

Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt was one of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s three sisters. In the early 1930s—years before her brother’s election to the U.S. House of Representatives, and decades before his presidency—Rebekah was a graduate student in Washington, D.C., where she also worked in the cataloging department at the Library of Congress. It was here at the Library where she met and fell in love with her co-worker and fellow Texan, Oscar Price Bobbitt; the two were married in 1941.

After Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt died in 1978, her husband and son, Philip Bobbitt, endowed a memorial to the Library of Congress in her honor; the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry was established 10 years later in 1988.

  • Biography
    Jorie Graham
    2018 Bobbitt Prize Winner
    Jorie Graham was born in New York City in 1950, and raised in Italy and France. She is the author of numerous collections of poetry, including Fast (2017), winner of the Library of Congress’s Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry; From the New World: Poems 1976-2014 (2015); the Forward Prize-winning and T.S. Eliot Prize-nominated Place (2012); and The Dream of the […]
  • Biography
    Nathaniel Mackey
    2016 Bobbitt Prize Winner
    Nathaniel Mackey was born in Miami, Florida, in 1947. He is the author of six books of poetry, most recently Blue Fasa (2015); an ongoing prose work, From a Broken Bottle Traces of Perfume Still Emanate, whose fifth and most recent volume is Late Arcade (2017); and two books of criticism, most recently Paracritical Hinge: Essays, Talks, […]
  • Biography
    Claudia Rankine
    2016 Bobbitt Prize Winner
    Claudia Rankine (1963- ) was born in Jamaica in 1963. She is the author of five poetry collections, including Nothing in Nature is Private (1995), winner of the Cleveland State Poetry Prize; The End of the Alphabet (1998); and Citizen: An American Lyric (2014), winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Forward Prize […]
  • Biography
    Patricia Smith
    2014 Bobbitt Prize Winner
    Patricia Smith (1955- ) is the author of six books of poetry, including Incendiary Art (2016); Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah (2012), winner of the 2014 Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt Prize for Poetry from the Library of Congress and the Lenore Marshall Prize from the Academy of American Poets; Blood Dazzler (2008); and Teahouse of the Almighty, a 2005 National […]
  • Biography
    Gerald Stern
    2012 Bobbitt Prize Winner
    Gerald Stern (1925- ) is the author of more than 20 poetry collections, including Bread Without Sugar (1992), winner of the Paterson Prize; This Time: New and Selected Poems (1998), winner of the National Book Award; Everything is Burning (2005); Save the Last Dance (2008); Early Collected Poems: 1965-1992 (2010), winner of the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt Prize for Poetry from the Library of Congress;...
  • Biography
    Lucia Perillo
    2010 Bobbitt Prize Winner
    Lucia Perillo. Photo credit: Frank Huster. Lucia Perillo was born in New York City in 1958. She authored numerous collections of poetry, including Dangerous Life (1989), a Norma Farber Award winner from the Poetry Society of America; The Body Mutinies (1996), which won the Kate Tufts Discovery Award; and Inseminating the Elephant (2009), winner of […]
  • Biography
    Charles Wright
    U.S. Poet Laureate, 2014-2015
    2008 Bobbitt Prize Winner
    Charles Wright was born in Pickwick Dam, Tennessee, on August 25, 1935, and attended Davidson College and the University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop. He is the author of 24 poetry collections. Wright’s major honors include the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize in Poetry from the Library of Congress.
  • Biography
    W. S. Merwin
    Special Bicentennial Consultant, 1999-2000
    2006 Bobbitt Prize Winner
    W. S. Merwin (1927-2019) was born in New York City. He authored more than 30 poetry collections. Merwin also published more than 20 books of translation, numerous plays, and six books of prose. Merwin served as a special Bicentennial Consultant from 1999-2000, and as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry from 2010-2011.
  • Biography
    B. H. Fairchild
    2004 Bobbitt Prize Winner
    B. H. Fairchild was born in Houston, Texas, in 1942. He is the author of six collections of poetry, including Early Occult Memory Systems of the Lower Midwest (2003), which received the National Book Critics Circle Award, the California Book Award, the Texas Institute for Letters Poetry Award, and the Library of Congress’s Bobbitt National Prize […]
  • Biography
    Alice Fulton
    2002 Bobbitt Prize Winner
    Alice Fulton was born in Troy, New York, in 1952. She is the author of eight books of poetry, including Barely Composed (2015); Cascade Experiment: Selected Poems (2004); and Felt (2001), winner of the 2002 Bobbitt Prize for Poetry from the Library of Congress. She has received fellowships from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, The […]
  • Biography
    David Ferry
    2000 Bobbitt Prize Winner
    David Ferry was born in Orange, New Jersey, in 1924. He is the author of eight poetry collections, including Of No Country I Know: New and Selected Poems and Translations (1999), winner of the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize, the Bingham Poetry Prize, and the Bobbitt Prize; The Georgics of Virgil (2005); and Bewilderment: New Poems […]
  • Biography
    Frank Bidart
    1998 Bobbitt Prize Winner
    Photo credit: Jeff Love. Frank Bidart (1939- ) was born in Bakersfield, California, in 1939. He is the author of nine poetry collections, including The Sacrifice (1983); Desire (1997); and Metaphysical Dog (2013), winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award. His most recent collection, Half-Light: Collected Poems 1965-2016 (2017), won the National Book Award for […]
  • Biography
    Kenneth Koch
    1996 Bobbitt Prize Winner
    Kenneth Koch (1925-2002) was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1925. He published 20 poetry collections, including The Art of Love: Poems (1975), One Train (1994), and New Addresses (2000), as well as several books of prose, two collections of fiction, and nearly 20 plays. Koch’s many honors included the Phi Beta Kappa Poetry Award, the […]
  • Biography
    A. R. Ammons
    1994 Bobbitt Prize Winner
    A.R. Ammons (credit: Edgar Rosenberg)A. R. Ammons (1926-2001) was born near Whiteville, North Carolina in 1926. He is the author of 29 poetry collections, including Garbage (1993), which received the National Book Award and the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry; A Coast of Trees (1981), which received the National Book Critics Circle Award; […]
  • Biography
    Mark Strand
    U.S. Poet Laureate, 1990-1991
    1992 Bobbitt Prize Winner
    Mark Strand (1934-2014) was born on Prince Edward Island, Canada. He published nearly 20 poetry collections. He taught at the University of Iowa, the University of Utah, the University of Chicago, and Columbia University, and had been a visiting professor at University of Virginia, Yale, and Harvard.
  • Biography
    Louise Glück
    Special Bicentennial Consultant, 1999-2000
    1992 Bobbitt Prize Winner
    Louise Glück was born in New York City in 1943. She is the author of 15 poetry collections. Glück has taught English and creative writing at Williams College, Yale University, Boston University, the University of Iowa, and Goddard College. She currently lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
  • Biography
    James Ingram Merrill
    1990 Bobbitt Prize Winner
    James Ingram Merrill (credit: The New London Day) James Ingram Merrill (1926-1995) was born in New York City in 1926. He is the author of 24 collections of poetry, including Nights and Days (1966), winner of the National Book Award; Divine Comedies (1976), winner of the Pulitzer Prize; Mirabell: Books of Number (1978), also winner […]