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Nominations Open for 2018 Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry

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Bust of Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt in the Poetry and Literature Center.

Attention, poetry publishers: The Library of Congress is now accepting nominations for the 2018 Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry!

The $10,000 prize, first awarded to James Merrill in 1990 for The Inner Room, is given biennially to an American poet for the most distinguished book of poetry published during the previous two years—2016 and 2017 this time around—or for lifetime achievement in poetry. The 2016 Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Poetry Prize was awarded to two poets: Claudia Rankine for her book Citizen: An American Lyric and to Nathaniel Mackey for lifetime achievement.

The prize is made possible by the family of the late Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt of Austin, Texas, in her memory. Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt was one of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s three sisters. In the early 1930s—years before her brother’s election to the U.S. House of Representatives, and decades before his presidency—Rebekah was a graduate student in D.C., where she also worked in the cataloging department at the Library of Congress. It was here at the Library where she fell in love with co-worker and fellow Texan, Oscar Price Bobbitt. The two were married in 1941.

Speaking at the Library nearly 50 years later, their son, Philip C. Bobbitt, revealed some background on his parents’ romance. He had discovered a cache of old index cards on which were typed, instead of catalog numbers, excerpts of poems. Essentially, these were the notes cataloging his parents’ Library love story. When Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt died in 1978, Philip and his father decided to endow a memorial in her name—and, owing to this history of love and poetry at the Library of Congress, the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry was established 10 years later.

To learn more about the prize’s history and impressive list of recipients, head on over to our Bobbitt Prize page. You can also go behind the scenes (on the third episode of our new podcast series) with the three jurors of the 2016 prize—Mary Szybist, Danielle Legros Georges, and Betty Sue Flowers—to learn how they reached the decision to award the prize to both Claudia Rankine and Nathaniel Mackey.

If you’re here purely for 2018 Bobbitt Prize nomination logistics, this one’s for you:

Poetry publishers, please send us your nominations between now and July 15, 2018 (postmark deadline). Guidelines for eligibility and submission can be found here.