The Foundation Celebrates 61 Years of National Book Awards Poetry
In 2009, the National Book Foundation took a look back at the 77 books that had won the National Book Award for Fiction since 1950 through a book-a-day blog with short essays by writers, editors, agents, and critics, including Jonathan Lethem, Antonya Nelson, Willie Perdomo, Liz Rosenberg, Salvatore Scibona, Patricia Smith, David Ulin, Jess Walter, and Tim Weiner. This year, the Foundation hosts a retrospective examining more than sixty years of National Book Award-winning poetry, including a blog with curatorial appreciations of each of the 51 Winners of the National Book Award for Poetry since 1950.* The blog provides an opportunity for a group of talented contemporary poets who represent diverse poetic styles to sound off on some of the greatest American poets and their books, with one original essay published each weekday into May, 2011. Each blog page also includes the original book cover, a photograph of the author, a list of the National Book Award Judges and Finalists for that year (when available), and related material and links.
The list of National Book Award Poetry Winners includes poets who have fallen out of fashion but may again become touchstones for emerging writers, as well as others who remain highly influential in their field. In writing these essays, the bloggers discovered poets whose work they would not be reading otherwise, looked back at work which was not their favorite and found new ways to appreciate or skewer it, and praised the words of their longtime heroes. We welcome your comments on the blog and thank our group of contributing poets for their valuable thoughts and work.
Funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, this project will result in a digitized literary archive that will take up permanent residence on the Foundation's website.
*From 1984 through 1990, the National Book Award was only given in the categories of Fiction and Nonfiction, leaving a gap in the list of Poetry Winners. Hence, only 51 Poetry Winners in more than 60 years.
Click on the active cover images to be taken to the blog entry for that book.