Poetry News

Congratulations to Patricia Spears Jones, Jackson Poetry Prize Winner!

By Harriet Staff

Poets & Writers announced the winner of the 2017 Jackson Poetry Prize today: Patricia Spears Jones! Each year, the prize honors "an American poet of exceptional talent who deserves wider recognition." Past recipients include Elizabeth Alexander, who inaugurated the prize in 2007, and Will Alexander, who received the $50,000 honor last year.

In their citation, this year's judges (Henri Cole, Kwame Dawes, and Mary Szybist) praised Ms. Spears Jones's poetry for its composition "of fever, bones, and breath." "[She has] steadily and quietly enriched the American poetic tradition with sophisticated and moving poems. More of us should know who she is, and even more should read her." Let's learn more about this year's recipient:

Patricia Spears Jones is a Brooklyn-based African American poet. Her most recent collection of poems, A Lucent Fire: New and Selected Poems, published by White Pine Press in 2015, was a finalist for the Poetry Society of America’s 2016 William Carlos Williams Prize, as well as for the Paterson Poetry Prize. Her earlier books include Painkiller (Tia Chucha Press, 2010), Femme du Monde (Tia Chucha Press, 2006), and The Weather That Kills (Coffee House Press, 1995). Previous honors include a 2016 Pushcart Prize, a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship, and awards from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, Goethe-Institut, the New York Foundation for the Arts, Foundation for Contemporary Arts, and the New York Community Trust.

Born in Arkansas, Spears Jones was educated at Rhodes College and earned her MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is an active member of the literary community as a curator, editor, and teacher. She was the program coordinator for the Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church in New York, curated the reading series Words Sunday in Brooklyn, and has participated in residencies at the Virginia Center for Creative Arts, Bread Loaf Writers Conference, Yaddo, and the Millay Colony. She is a contributing editor to BOMB magazine and a senior fellow at Black Earth Institute, a progressive think tank. Spears Jones has led writing workshops at literary centers including Cave Canem, Poets House, and the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley, and has upcoming engagements at the Fine Arts Works Center in Provincetown and Gemini Ink in San Antonio. Mabou Mines, the internationally acclaimed theater company, has commissioned and produced two plays by Spears Jones. She is a lecturer at LaGuardia Community College and is on the faculty of a new interdisciplinary MFA program in Creative Writing and Technology at Bloomfield College in Bloomfield, NJ.

Read the judges' complete citation and learn more about the Jackson Poetry Prize at Poets & Writers.

Originally Published: April 18th, 2017