Bobbitt Prize

The biennial, privately funded $10,000 Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry was first awarded to James Merrill in 1990 for "The Inner Room," and has historically been awarded to an American poet for the most distinguished book of poetry published during the preceding two years or for lifetime achievement in poetry. In some cases, the prize has been split between two winners, one recognized for a book of poetry and the other for lifetime achievement.

Starting in 2024, the prize is awarded to only one winner for either the most distinguished book of poetry published during the preceding two years or for lifetime achievement in poetry. The Librarian of Congress selects the winner based on recommendations from an internal committee of Library literary staff and with suggestions from a representative chosen by the Bobbitt family. The Library of Congress no longer solicits or accepts nominations from publishers.

The winner of the $10,000 prize delivers a lecture on poetry at the Library of Congress in the fall of the prize year.

The Bobbitt 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.

  • Biography
    Terrance Hayes
    2020 Bobbitt Prize Winner
    Terrance Hayes was born in Columbia, South Carolina, in 1971. He is the author of six poetry collections, including American Sonnets for My Past And Future Assassin (2018), winner of the 2019 Hurston/Wright Foundation Legacy Award for poetry and the 2020 Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry from the Library of Congress.
  • Biography
    Natasha Trethewey
    2020 Bobbitt Prize Winner
    Natasha Trethewey was born in Gulfport, Mississippi, on April 26, 1966. She served two terms as the 19th Poet Laureate of the United States (2012-2014), and is the author of five collections of poetry, a book of nonfiction, and a memoir.
  • 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 Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry from the Library of Congress.
  • 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; and two books of criticism. In 2016, he was awarded the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry (for lifetime achievement) from the Library of Congress.
  • Biography
    Claudia Rankine
    2016 Bobbitt Prize Winner
    Claudia Rankine was born in Jamaica in 1963. She is the author of multiple poetry and nonfiction collections, including Just Us: An American Conversation (2020) and Citizen: An American Lyric (2014), winner of the Library of Congress Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry from the Library of Congress.
  • Biography
    Patricia Smith
    2014 Bobbitt Prize Winner
    Patricia Smith is the author of multiple books of poetry, including Incendiary Art (2016), winner of the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and the NAACP Image Award; and Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah (2012), winner of the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry from the Library of Congress.
  • Biography
    Gerald Stern
    2012 Bobbitt Prize Winner
    Gerald Stern is the author of more than 20 poetry collections, including Blessed As We Were: Late Selected & New Poems, 2000-2018 (2020); Galaxy Love (2017); and Early Collected Poems: 1965-1992 (2010), winner of the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry from the Library of Congress.
  • Biography
    Lucia Perillo
    2010 Bobbitt Prize Winner
    Lucia Perillo was born in New York City in 1958. She authored numerous collections of poetry, including Inseminating the Elephant (2009), winner of the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry from the Library of Congress; The Body Mutinies (1996), which won the Kate Tufts Discovery Award; and Dangerous Life (1989), a Norma Farber Award winner from the Poetry Society of America.
  • Biography
    Bob Hicok
    2008 Bobbitt Prize Winner
    Bob Hicok was born in Michigan in 1960. He is the author of multiple poetry collections, including Hold (2018); Elegy Owed (2013); and This Clumsy Living (2007), which received the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry from the Library of Congress.
  • Biography
    Charles Wright
    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 for Poetry from the Library of Congress.
  • Biography
    W. S. Merwin
    2006 Bobbitt Prize Winner
    W. S. Merwin was born in New York City. He authored more than 30 poetry collections, 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 Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry from the Library of Congress.
  • 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 Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry from the Library of Congress.
  • 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 Bewilderment: New Poems and Translations (2012), winner of the National Book Award; and Of No Country I Know: New and Selected Poems and Translations (1999), winner of the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry from the Library of Congress.
  • Biography
    Frank Bidart
    1998 Bobbitt Prize Winner
    Frank Bidart was born in Bakersfield, California, in 1939. He is the author of several poetry collections, including Half-Light: Collected Poems 1965-2016 (2017), which won the National Book Award for Poetry and the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry; and Desire (1997), winner of the Library of Congress Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry.
  • Biography
    Kenneth Koch
    1996 Bobbitt Prize Winner
    Kenneth Koch was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1925. He published 20 poetry collections, including New Addresses (2000); One Train (1994), winner of the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry from the Library of Congress; and The Art of Love: Poems (1975).
  • Biography
    A. R. Ammons
    1994 Bobbitt Prize Winner
    A. R. Ammons was born near Whiteville, North Carolina, in 1926. He published 29 poetry collections, including Garbage (1993), which received the National Book Award and the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry from the Library of Congress; A Coast of Trees (1981), which received the National Book Critics Circle Award; and Collected Poems, 1951-1971 (1972), which won the National Book Award.
  • Biography
    Louise Glück
    1992 Bobbitt Prize Winner
    Louise Glück was born in New York City in 1943. She is the author of numerous poetry collections, including Faithful and Virtuous Night (2014), which won the National Book Award, and The Wild Iris (1992), which won the Pulitzer Prize. In 2020, Glück was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.
  • Biography
    Mark Strand
    1992 Bobbitt Prize Winner
    Mark Strand was born on Prince Edward Island, Canada, in 1934. He published nearly 20 poetry collections, including Almost Invisible (2012); Blizzard of One (1998), which won the Pulitzer Prize; and The Continuous Life (1990), which received the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry from the Library of Congress.
  • Biography
    James Ingram Merrill
    1990 Bobbitt Prize Winner
    James Ingram Merrill was born in New York City in 1926. He authored 24 collections of poetry, including The Changing Light at Sandover (1982), winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award; The Inner Room (1988), winner of the first Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry from the Library of Congress; and Mirabell: Books of Number (1978), winner of the National Book Award.