Open main menu

Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry

The Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry is awarded biennially by the Library of Congress on behalf of the nation in recognition for the most distinguished book of poetry written by an American and published during the preceding two years. The award is overseen by the Library of Congress Center for the Book.

The PrizeEdit

The $10,000 prize winner is chosen by a three-member jury appointed by a selection committee composed of the Librarian of Congress, the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry, a publisher named by the Academy of American Poets and a literary critic nominated by the Bobbitt family. Awarded for "the Most Distinguished Book of Poetry Published in 2006 or 2007, OR For Lifetime Achievement in Poetry", nominations come from publishers, and is given only to living American poets. The criteria for the award are that a nomination must be a poet's first poetry book or a book composed of new work of any length. Collected or selected works qualify only if they include at least thirty new poems previously unpublished in book form with prior publication in print media being acceptable.

At the sole discretion of the judging panel, they may instead award the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Lifetime Achievement in Poetry. There is no nomination process for this award, and it has to date not been given.[1]


Mrs. Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt was the younger sister of Lyndon B. Johnson, 36th President of the United States. Born in 1910 in Stonewall, Texas, she worked in the cataloging department of the Library of Congress in the 1930s before her brother entered politics. Whilst there, she met college student Oscar Price (O.P) Bobbitt, who also worked in the department. Bobbitt courted Rebekah with love poems typed on index cards and passed secretly to her under the nose of supervisors. After marrying, they returned to Texas and began a family. She died in 1978.[2]

Established in her memory in 1988 by her son, Professor Philip C. Bobbitt, and her husband, the Bobbitt prize was the first national poetry award given in almost 40 years. In 1949, Congress placed a 40-year ban on Library prizes following controversy over the Library's awarding of the 1948 Bollingen National Prize for Poetry to Ezra Pound for his Pisan Cantos. Following the public outcry at the time of the award to Pound, the Joint Congressional Committee on the Library of Congress in 1949 adopted a policy prohibiting the Library henceforth from granting any more awards or prizes.

James H. Billington, the Librarian of Congress, is quoted as stating: "The family relation to the Library is a great love story and it is too good not to want to savor, commemorate and celebrate."[3]

Three-time Poet Laureate, Robert Pinsky, said of the Prize in 2000, "I don't know of any other literary prize that has such a high standard."[2]


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry – Poetry (Library of Congress)". Library of Congress Website. United States Library of Congress. Archived from the original on 2008-03-27. Retrieved 2008-03-30.
  2. ^ a b Molotsky, Irvin (2000-12-20). "$10,000 Bobbitt Poetry Prize Is Awarded To David Ferry". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2013-01-30. Retrieved 2008-03-30.
  3. ^ French, Yvonne (December 1998). "Frank Bidart Awarded Bobbitt Prize (December 1998)". Library of Congress Information Bulletin. 57 (12). Retrieved 2008-03-30.
  4. ^ "Jorie Graham Wins Bobbitt Poetry Prize". Retrieved 2018-11-02.
  5. ^ "Claudia Rankine Wins Bobbitt Poetry Prize". Retrieved 2018-11-02.
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-07-08. Retrieved 2008-07-02.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

External linksEdit