Jackson Poetry Prize

The Jackson Poetry Prize honors an American poet of exceptional talent who deserves wider recognition. It was established in 2006 with a gift from the Liana Foundation and is named for the John and Susan Jackson family. Eligible poets must have published at least two books of acknowledged literary merit. The $50,000 prize is designed to provide what all poets need—time and the encouragement to write. There is no application process for the Jackson Poetry Prize—nominees are identified by a group of poets selected by Poets & Writers who remain anonymous; final selection is made by a panel of esteemed poets.

The 2013 Jackson Poetry Prize recipient is Arthur Sze. Poets Reginald Gibbons, Natasha Trethewey, and C. D. Wright served as judges. Their citation for Mr. Sze reads as follows:

Arthur Sze"Everything can happen in the teeming space of a stanza by Arthur Sze; almost everything does. The profane and the glorious are never far apart; more often than not they are contained in the same couplet. And the extraordinary invariably manifests itself in the ordinary or as he writes, “Revelation never comes as a fern uncoiling/a frond in mist; it comes when I trip on a root,/slap a mosquito on my arm.” Sze specializes in the serial or linked poem. He specializes in irresoluble contradictions and the simultaneity of their circumstance. He is deft with improbable metamorphoses. He is undeterred from the uninflected actual, “When//Robin’s coworkers were terminated, she left/ her communications job to groom horses.” Little escapes his attention, be it a particular mushroom camouflaged in the forest floor or light lifting off the length of a power line while a sous-chef slices ginger and scallions. All that is teeming is specific and nothing is unrelated. His “mind aligns such slivers.” Sze is hyper-awake to a chance that a petal may tip the balance of life; to the fact that “we cannot act if we are asleep.” Through eight collections of poetry,translations of Chinese poetry and the recently edited Chinese Writers on Writing, Arthur Sze has proven to be one of our most patient, painstaking, and prepared observers. The impression of land and sky on mind and mind on the mess we tend to make of things is seldom brought to such an exquisite degree of awareness. In exacting language, Sze has brought his gleaming perceptions and looming concerns to a rare quality of order.”

Read the 2013 press release.

View photos of the 2013 Jackson Poetry Prize reading honoring Arthur Sze.

Past winners of the Jackson Poetry Prize are:

2012 - Henri Cole
Judges: Louise Glück, Marilyn Hacker, and James Tate

2011 - James Richardson
Judges: Mark Doty, Rita Dove, and Gerald Stern

2010 - Harryette Mullen
Judges: Fanny Howe, Ted Kooser, and C.K. Williams

2009 - Linda Gregg
Judges: Brenda Hillman, Edward Hirsch, and Charles Simic

2008 - Tony Hoagland
Judges: Philip Levine, Robert Pinsky, and Ellen Bryant Voigt

2007 - Elizabeth Alexander
Judges: Lucille Clifton, Stephen Dunn, and Jane Hirshfield

View photos of the 2012 Jackson Poetry Prize reading honoring Henri Cole.

View videos of Harryette Mullen reading her work at a Poets & Writers event.

View a video of Linda Gregg reading her work at a Poets & Writers event.

View a video of Tony Hoagland reading his work at a Poets & Writers event.

View a video of Elizabeth Alexander reading her work at a Poets & Writers event.