Library of Congress Awards Bobbitt Poetry Prizes to Rita Dove and Heid E. Erdrich
The Library of Congress will award the 2022 Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry to former U.S. Poet Laureate Rita Dove for lifetime achievement and to Heid E. Erdrich for her poetry collection “Little Big Bully.”
The poets will receive their honors and read selections from their work on Thursday, Dec. 8, at 7 p.m. during Live at the Library at the Thomas Jefferson Building. The reading is free and open to the public. Free timed-entry passes are required to enter the Thomas Jefferson Building. Timed-entry passes will provide entry to the author program in Room LJ-119.
The 2022 Bobbitt prizes were awarded for the most distinguished book of poetry published in the preceding two years, 2020 and 2021, and for lifetime achievement in poetry. Erdrich’s book was published by Penguin Books in 2020. Dove is the author of 11 books of poetry, most recently “Playlist for the Apocalypse: Poems,” published by W. W. Norton and Company in 2021. The 2022 prize marks the 17th time the award has been given.
The panel of jurors for this year’s prize included the former poet laureate of the Navajo Nation, Laura Tohe, selected by former U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo; Ilya Kaminsky, winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Award, selected by Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden; and scholar Betty Sue Flowers, selected by the Bobbitt family.
In its lifetime achievement citation for Dove, the Bobbitt jury noted that “her new collection, as well as [her] dazzling decades-long work in poetry, brings honor to this prize.” The panel also said her newest poetry collection, "Playlist from the Apocalypse: Poems," is “quintessential Rita Dove: ethical and lyrical, moving in and out of the whirlwind that is history, playful in her use of form — sonnets, odes, addresses, invocations, aubades — and generous in her gathering of different voices and tribes to her pages.”
Dove’s 11 poetry collections include “Thomas and Beulah,” winner of the Pulitzer Prize; “Sonata Mulattica” and “Collected Poems 1974-2004.” From 1993-1995, she served as the U.S. Poet Laureate. Dove was also appointed the Poet Laureate of the Commonwealth of Virginia from 2004-2006 and served as a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. Dove was the editor of “The Penguin Anthology of Twentieth-Century American Poetry” and guest editor of “Best American Poetry 2000,” and has served as The New York Times poetry editor and the editor for The Washington Post’s “poets choice” feature. Her many honors include the American Academy of Arts and Letters Gold Medal for Poetry, the Heinz Award in the Arts and Humanities, the Wallace Stevens Award, the Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Medal, the National Humanities Medal and the National Medal of Arts. A member of both the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Dove has been teaching at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville since 1989, where she is currently the Henry Hoyns professor of creative writing.
The Bobbitt jury citation for Heid E. Erdrich and her prize-winning book “Little Big Bully” stated, “She writes across the breadth of the U.S.’s collective history with Indigenous peoples using historical terminology that reaches into the heart of tribal sovereign existence. Yet there is the underlying awareness that Indigenous nations maintain a unique history and have tribal narratives that shape their lives. Her poems are lyrical, visual and, at times, achingly personal.”
Erdrich is the author of six poetry collections and a nonfiction Indigenous foods book, as well as the editor of the poetry anthology “New Poets of Native Nations.” Her honors include a National Poetry Series award, Native Arts and Cultures Foundation Fellowship, Loft-McKnight Fellowship, First Peoples Fund Cultural Capital Fellowship, Minnesota State Arts Board grants and two Minnesota Book Awards. She currently teaches in the Native American and Indigenous studies department of Dartmouth College and is a guest curator for the Mead Art Museum at Amherst College. Erdrich is Ojibwe and an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa.
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, or both. The prize is made possible by the family of Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt of Austin, Texas, in her memory, and awarded at the Library of Congress. While a graduate student in Washington, D.C. in the 1930s, Rebekah Johnson, President Lyndon B. Johnson’s sister, 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.
Learn more about the Bobbitt Prize, including past winners at loc.gov/programs/poetry-and-literature/prizes/bobbitt-prize/.
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