For immediate release

Ed Roberson awarded 2016 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize and
The Poems of T.S. Eliot wins 2016 Pegasus Award for Poetry Criticism

Annual awards recognize accomplishments in poetry
May 11, 2016

CHICAGO – The Poetry Foundation is honored to announce the winners of two poetry awards. The 2016 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, which honors a living US poet for outstanding lifetime achievement, is awarded to Chicago-based poet Ed Roberson; and the Foundation’s annual Pegasus Award for Poetry Criticism, a prize for book-length works of criticism, goes to The Poems of T.S. Eliot: The Annotated Text. Volumes 1 & 2 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2015), edited by Christopher Ricks and Jim McCue.

Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize ($100,000)
“In both language and in life (his studies have taken him to Alaska, South America, Africa and Bermuda), Ed Roberson is an explorer,” Poetry magazine editor Don Share notes. “Working at a healthy remove from the precincts of professional critics and tastemakers, but admired deeply by them, Roberson’s ten books of poetry take readers, as they have taken the poet himself, to every corner of the vivid labyrinth of life.”

Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Ed Roberson studied painting in his youth and is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh. His extensive travels inform his work, which is also influenced by spirituals and the blues, and by visual art, such as the mixed media collages of Romare Bearden. Poet and critic Michael Palmer has called Roberson “one of the most deeply innovative and critically acute voices of our time.”

Roberson is the author of numerous books of poetry, including To See the Earth Before the End of the World (2010), which was a runner-up for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize poetry award; The New Wing of the Labyrinth (2009); City Eclogue (2006); Atmosphere Conditions (1999), which was chosen by Nathaniel Mackey for the National Poetry Series and was a finalist for an Academy of American Poets’ Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize; Just In: Word of Navigational Change: New and Selected Work (1998); and Voices Cast Out to Talk Us In (1995), which won the Iowa Poetry Prize. His most recent publication is the chapbook Closest Pronunciation (2013). His earlier collections include Etai-Eken (1975) and When Thy King is a Boy (1970). Words and phrases in Roberson’s experimental poetry actively resist parsing, using instead what Mackey has called “double-jointed syntax” to explore and bend themes of race, history, and culture. “I’m not creating a new language. I’m just trying to un-White-Out the one we’ve got,” said Roberson in a 2006 interview with Chicago Postmodern Poetry.

Roberson’s honors include a Lila Wallace Writers’ Award, a Poetry Society of America’s Shelley Award, and the 2016 PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry. His work has been included in Best American Poetry. Roberson lives in Chicago, where he has taught at the University of Chicago, Columbia College Chicago, and Northwestern University. “In addition to the natural world and our connection to it, Ed Roberson has written about and lived through some of most galvanizing moments of twentieth-century America,” said Henry Bienen, president of the Poetry Foundation. “The Lilly Poetry Prize acknowledges Roberson’s courage in breaking with literary traditions and in his contribution to poetry throughout his distinguished career.”

Visit Ed Roberson’s biography and an audio lecture of Roberson discussing his work.
A portfolio of new poems by Ed Roberson will appear in Poetry magazine later this year.

Pegasus Award for Poetry Criticism ($7,500)
The annual Pegasus Award for Poetry Criticism honors the best book-length works of criticism, including biographies, essay collections and critical editions that consider the subject of poetry or poets. The 2016 award goes to editors Christopher Ricks and Jim McCue for The Poems of T.S. Eliot: The Annotated Text. Volumes 1 & 2 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2015). Ricks and McCue have provided a commentary that illuminates the imaginative life of each poem. Calling upon Eliot’s critical writings, as well as his drafts, letters, and other original materials, they illustrate not only the breadth of Eliot’s interests and the range of his writings, but how it was that the author of “Gerontion” came to write "Triumphal March" and then Four Quartets.

Poetry editor Don Share praises the volumes: “The authoritative and remarkable editing of the poems of T.S. Eliot by Christopher Ricks and Jim McCue is unprecedented; their work illuminates every one of Eliot’s poems in ways unimaginable until now. This work will remain invaluable to readers and students of poetry for many generations.”

Visit the Johns Hopkins University Press page dedicated to The Poems of T.S. Eliot.

About the Poetry Foundation

The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, is an independent literary organization committed to a vigorous presence for poetry in our culture. It exists to discover and celebrate the best poetry and to place it before the largest possible audience. The Poetry Foundation seeks to be a leader in shaping a receptive climate for poetry by developing new audiences, creating new avenues for delivery and encouraging new kinds of poetry through innovative literary prizes and programs. For more information, please visit

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