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June 4, 2007
Library of Congress Seeks Nominations for the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt Poetry Prize
The Library of Congress is seeking nominations from publishers for the $10,000 Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry, which will be presented in the fall of 2007.
Applications must be submitted no later than July 9. A large mailing of announcements, along with rules and application forms, will go out to publishers from the Library’s Poetry and Literature Center.
The prize, which is given biennially, is for the 2006 award. Since the last award in 2004, the eligibility criteria have been amended. The 2006 prize will be given to an American poet for the best book published during the previous two years, 2004-2005, or for lifetime achievement in poetry.
The prize is given by the family of the late Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt of Austin, Texas, in her memory. She was President Lyndon B. Johnson’s sister and, while a graduate student in Washington during the 1930s, was an employee of the Library of Congress, where she met co-worker and college student O.P. Bobbitt, whom she later married.
Their son, Philip C. Bobbitt, once described how his parents used old index cards at the Library to pass notes to one another to further their romance. "Some time after my mother’s death, my father and I decided to endow a memorial in her honor and, owing to the history I have described, the Library of Congress was suggested as a possible recipient of this memoriam."
The prizes are presented in even-numbered years:
- 1990: James Merrill, "The Inner Room"
- 1992: Shared by Louise Glűck, "Ararat," and Mark Strand, "A Continuous Life"
- 1994: A.R. Ammons, "Garbage"
- 1996: Kenneth Koch, "One Train"
- 1998: Frank Bidart, "Desire"
- 2000: David Ferry, "Of No Country I Know: New and Selected Poems and Translations"
- 2002: Alice Fulton, "Felt"
- 2004: B.H. Fairchild, "Early Occult Memory Systems of the Lower Midwest"
When the Bobbitt Prize was first given in 1990, it was a milestone in the Library’s history. It was the first such award given by the Library since 1949, when the Joint Congressional Committee on the Library of Congress in 1949 adopted a policy prohibiting the Library from granting any more awards or prizes as a result of the controversy surrounding the Library’s awarding of the 1948 Bollingen Prize to Ezra Pound for his "Pisan Cantos." The Bollingen Prize is now administered by Yale University.
On April 15, 1988 the Joint Committee on the Library approved Librarian of Congress James H. Billington’s petition for the resumption of "the awarding of prizes by the Library of Congress in recognition of exceptionally meritorious achievements in the life of the mind, including works in biography, history, fiction, poetry and drama, as requested by the Librarian." The Bobbitt Prize was the first literary prize to be offered and administered by the Library after the congressional approval took effect.
The Librarian of Congress, the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry, a publisher appointed by the Academy of American Poets and a literary critic appointed by the Bobbitt family will select a three-member prize jury.
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