From Poets & Writers, Inc.

POETS & WRITERS IS MORE than a
magazine. We are a nonprofit organization that pays fees to writers participating
in literary events, helps authors connect with one another, and provides
information on how to publish. We also sponsor a number of awards and prizes.
Your subscription to Poets &
Writers Magazine
supports this
important work.

Time Over Money

In April Harryette Mullen was named winner of the fourth annual Jackson Poetry Prize, a fifty-thousand-dollar award that honors an American poet of exceptional talent who deserves wider recognition. Sponsored by Poets & Writers, Inc., the prize is made possible by a significant donation from the Liana Foundation and named for the John and Susan Jackson family. We asked the 2009 winner, Linda Gregg, to share her thoughts on what winning the prize meant to her. 

The Numbers Behind
the Jackson
Poetry Prize

 
 

Number of poets
who have won
the prize: 4

 
 

Number of judges
who choose the
winning poet: 3

 
 

Dollars each poet
receives: 50,000

 
 

Number of books
published by
the winners: 23

 
 

Number of winners
who are teachers: 4

 
 

Number of winners
who
have read
at a presidential
inauguration: 1

When I was kicked out of my family home at seventeen and moved from the country to San Francisco to get an education in English literature and creative writing, I already knew I was going to spend my life being a poet. I worked as a maid in a five-story mansion in Pacific Heights. After that, things got importantly wonderful. I met Jack Gilbert and Robert Duncan, who were my teachers. I moved to Haight-Ashbury and watched the flower children create a world. And then the Beats returned as themselves and as our mentors. I was in the right place at the right time.

I was more like the Beats because they were serious about poetry. It was among these people that I learned how poets survive.

This was San Francisco in the sixties. There was no real winter, and food and apartments didn’t cost much. Some poets had jobs. Jack Spicer had a job. Some poets’ wives worked for the household’s money. Each poet was different, but I want to tell you what I learned.

Time was more important than money.

Life was more important than poetry.

Poetry helped you experience your life.

Poetry was not a profession, although Robert Duncan and Robert Creeley were wonderful teachers.

People were interested in Buddhism and 
nature. I thought I was nature.

People made bookshelves out of orange crates.

We were reading the latest books by William Carlos Williams and Ezra Pound.

We were told there was a writing school in Iowa.

We knew there were poets in the East. We thought they were formalists.

We were beginning to read poetry in translation from all over the world—Lorca, ancient Chinese writers, Mandelstam, Ritsos, and Pavese were among the most important to me.

Some poets didn’t want to be famous. Or if they did, it meant something very different from what it does today. I think Jack Spicer wanted the world to find him.

We went to avant-garde films that started at midnight.

We went to hear Janis Joplin.

Jack Gilbert had a poetry group in our apartment on Oak Street. I learned to live with what Jack called moderate poverty. We went on peace marches. Walked under tall eucalyptus trees.

Everybody was different. I chose this way: Time over money. Jack won five thousand dollars from the Guggenheim Foundation. The police threw tear gas on the streets. With the money we lived on Greek islands and in Europe for five years. In a shepherd’s house on a mountain. In a condemned building in Copenhagen.

The world has changed. I have taught in many universities in order to make a living. But I still love the idea that poetry comes out of a lived life. For me, time and place make a difference. It is not too hard for me to write a good poem. But to have the chance to write a great poem asks for everything.

This award from the Jackson family under the auspices of Poets & Writers has given me the chance to try for this life again.

Current Issue

Cover Story 

Our Independent Publishing Issue features an in-depth interview with Graywolf Press editor Jeff Shotts; a look at the successful partnerships of eleven small-press authors and their editors; a profile of indie essayist Charles D'Ambrosio; Donald Hall recalls a golden age of American poetry; best-selling author Miranda Beverly-Whittemore on the rewards of self-promotion; advice for self-published authors; a conversation with Guernica publisher Lisa Lucas; and much more.

Finding Gems in Lost & Found

by Rebecca Bates

News and Trends

Posted 10.15.14

November/December 2014

The Center for Humanities at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York City is making the ephemeral more tangible through its Lost & Found chapbook series.

More

Let's Just Do This: Eleven Small-Press Authors and their Publishing Partners

by Kevin Larimer

Special Section

Posted 10.15.14

November/December 2014

Eleven small-press authors and their publishing partners discuss the independent approach—and all the passion, commitment, and love that comes with it—to bringing books into the world.

More

Agents & Editors: Jeff Shotts

by Michael Szczerban

Special Section

Posted 10.15.14

November/December 2014

Graywolf Press executive editor Jeff Shotts discusses the power of patience in publishing, editing as an act of empathy, and why it’s an exciting time to be a poet.

More