Contact: Yvonne French (202) 707-9191

September 25, 1998

1998 Bobbitt Poetry Prize To Be Awarded to Frank Bidart

The 1998 Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry will be awarded to Frank Bidart at 6:45 p.m. Oct. 22 in the Montpelier Room, sixth floor, James Madison Memorial Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E.

The prize will be awarded to Mr. Bidart for his book Desire, published in 1997 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux Inc.

To commemorate this fifth Bobbitt Prize, in the 10th year of its existence, three earlier prize winners also will read: Louise Glck (for Ararat) and Mark Strand (for The Continuous Life), who shared the 1992 Bobbitt Prize; and Kenneth Koch, winner of the 1996 Bobbitt Prize for his collection One Train.

A reception will follow the reading. The event is free and open to the public. Tickets are not required.

The $10,000 biennial prize, a privately funded poetry prize given on behalf of the nation, recognizes the most distinguished book of poetry written by an American and published during the preceding two years. The prize is donated by the family of the late Mrs. Bobbitt of Austin, Texas, in her memory, and established at the Library of Congress. She was President Lyndon B. Johnson's sister. While a graduate student in Washington, during the 1930s, Rebekah Johnson 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.

Frank Bidart was educated at the University of California and at Harvard University. His earlier collections of poetry are Golden Gate (1973), The Book of the Body (1977), The Sacrifice (1983), and In the Western Night: Collected Poems, 1965-90 (1990). The Sacrifice contains the poem "The War of Vaslav Nijinsky," which, in 1981, won The Paris Review's first Bernard F. Conners Prize for a long poem. Mr. Bidart teaches at Wellesley College and lives in Cambridge, Mass.

The winner of the 1998 Bobbitt Prize was chosen by a three-member jury appointed in May by a selection committee composed of Librarian of Congress James H. Billington, Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry Robert Pinsky, a publisher named by the Academy of American Poets, and a literary critic nominated by the Bobbitt family. The jury members for this year's prize were poets Thom Gunn, Louise Glck, and James Longenbach.

The jury described Mr. Bidart as "a master of prosody and a master of human feeling," and called Desire "as intense as anything he's ever written, [but] less overtly theatrical, more troubled, more inward." The jury also labeled Desire "one of the most important books of the decade."

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PR 98-156
9/25/98
ISSN 0731-3527

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