Award Winners

2020 Shelley Memorial Award

Rick Barot


Selected by Katie Ford and Graham Foust

Rick Barot’s constancy as a poet of great patience—awaiting the world’s own speaking—makes his writing decidedly rare and rewarding. Over the course of his four books, most recently, The Galleons, Barot has earned a readership who can likely say that they read him because they trust him, believing that with each poem an arrival, or an openness, or a succumbing to true limits will befall them; that, at least, has been the experience of these two judges.

“Reading Plato,” the first poem of Barot’s first book, The Darker Fall, begins with the word “I” and ends with the word “them,” making it a prescient figure for his work thus far, an oeuvre that deftly propels the singular toward the communal, the intimacy of the thinker toward the warmth of the collective, the familial, or the beloved. Each poem is crafted with a miniaturist’s nimble hand—never a hand of force or pressure, but a hand that humbly finds the materials’ hidden alchemy. These materials, too, are often just traces: humanity leaves so many marks upon the world—hearts knifed into bus windows, initials scratched into the plastic partitions in taxis—and Barot wants to read them with us, which means that traces, though often left by strangers, give him hope.

As the title of ‘Ode with Interruptions’ suggests, Barot is a praise poet by way of honest reckoning; The Galleons ends its sweeping reach with this concession:

I used to think that to write poems, to make art,
meant trying to transcend the prosaic elements

of the self, to arrive at some essential plane, where
poems were supposed to succeed. I was wrong.

Not merely an admission of error, these lines are a summons toward the poems we trust Rick Barot has yet to write.


All Winners

2019

Carl R. Martin

2018

Ntozake Shange

2016

Sonia Sanchez

2015

D. A. Powell

2014

Bernadette Mayer

2013

Lucia Perillo
Martín Espada

2012

Wanda Coleman

2011

Rigoberto González
Joan Larkin

2010

Kenneth Irby
Eileen Myles

2009

Ron Padgett
Gary Young

2008

Ed Roberson

2007

Kimiko Hahn

2006

George Stanley

2005

Lyn Hejinian

2004

Yusef Komunyakaa

2003

James McMichael

2002

Angela Jackson
Marie Ponsot

2001

Alice Notley
Michael Palmer

2000

Jean Valentine

1999

Tom Sleigh

1998

Eleanor Ross Taylor

1997

Frank Bidart

1996

Robert Pinsky
Anne Waldman

1995

Stanley Kunitz

1994

Kenneth Koch
Cathy Song

1993

Josephine Jacobsen

1992

Lucille Clifton

1991

Shirley Kaufman

1990

Thom Gunn

1989

Thomas McGrath
Theodore Weiss

1988

Dennis Schmitz

1987

Mona Van Duyn

1986

Gary Snyder

1985

Etheridge Knight

1984

Robert Duncan
Denise Levertov

1983

Jon Anderson
Leo Connellan

1982

Alan Dugan

1981

Robert Creeley

1980

Julia Randall

1979

Robert Hayden