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Harvard’s Jorie Graham wins Library of Congress poetry prize

Jorie Graham is Boylston professor of rhetoric and oratory at Harvard University.

Poet and professor Jorie Graham will be the recipient of the Library of Congress’s 2018 Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry, for her 2017 poetry collection, “Fast.” Graham will receive her award, $10,000, and give a reading in Washington on Dec. 6.

Graham, the Boylston professor of rhetoric and oratory at Harvard University, is the author of more than a dozen books of verse. Among her many honors is a MacArthur Fellowship, awarded in 1990, and the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1996 for “The Dream of the Unified Field: Selected Poems 1974-1994.’’ 

“I’m incredibly grateful to the Library of Congress for awarding the Bobbitt Prize to ‘Fast’,” Graham said in a statement to the Globe, while traveling in Japan. “The idea that the sister of Lyndon Johnson is the source of this award is deeply moving — returning me to his legislative achievements in the creation of so many programs for Americans at risk today.”


The biennial prize was established by the husband and son of President Johnson’s younger sister, Rebekah, in 1988, a decade after her death. Past recipients include Claudia RankineFrank Bidart and Gerald Stern.

“I realize this is a nonpartisan award, but it is hard, hearing about it on the road between the home of the Kyoto Protocols and Hiroshima, on the eve of one of the most crucial turning points in the history of the young democracy that created one of the greatest libraries on Earth, not to feel partisan on behalf of the planet, civilization as we know it, and peace,” Graham said. “‘Fast’ is a book that takes on all those pressure points, seeking to understand the human impulse to destroy, as well as to celebrate what luminous world and faith we still have.”

Lillian Brown can be reached at lillian.brown@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @lilliangbrown.