The Bollingen Prize for Poetry is a literary honor bestowed on an American poet in recognition of the best book of new verse within the last two years, or for lifetime achievement. It is awarded every two years by the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library of Yale University.
Inception and controversy
The prize was established in 1948 by Paul Mellon, and was funded by a US$10,000 grant from the Bollingen Foundation to the Library of Congress. Both the prize and the foundation are named after the village of Bollingen, Switzerland, where Carl Jung had a country retreat, the Bollingen Tower. The inaugural prize, chosen by a jury of Fellows in American Letters of the Library of Congress, was awarded to Ezra Pound for his collection of poems The Pisan Cantos.
The choice of a work by a man who had been a committed fascist sympathizer and who was then under indictment for treason in World War II for his antisemitic broadcasts infuriated many. A bitter controversy ensued in the press, and the Library of Congress was requested by a congressional committee to disassociate itself from the award. The unused portion of the grant was returned to the Bollingen Foundation in 1949.
Continuance through the Yale University Library
The Bollingen Foundation decided to continue the program, with the administrative tasks being handled by the Yale University Library. The prize was awarded annually from 1948 to 1963. In 1963 the amount of the award was increased to $5,000, and thereafter it was given every other year. After 1968, when the Bollingen Foundation was dissolved, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation took over. In 1973 the Mellon Foundation established an endowment of $100,000 to enable the Yale Library to continue awarding the prize in perpetuity.
In 1961 a similar prize was set up by the Bollingen Foundation for best translation and it was won by Robert Fitzgerald for his translation of the Odyssey. It has also been won by Walter W. Arndt for his translation of Eugene Onegin, and in 1963 by Richard Wilbur and Mona Van Duyn jointly.
- 1965 – Horace Gregory
- 1967 – Robert Penn Warren
- 1969 – John Berryman and Karl Shapiro
- 1971 – Richard Wilbur and Mona Van Duyn
- 1973 – James Merrill
- 1975 – A. R. Ammons
- 1977 – David Ignatow
- 1979 – W. S. Merwin
- 1981 – Howard Nemerov and May Swenson
- 1983 – Anthony Hecht and John Hollander
- 1985 – John Ashbery and Fred Chappell
- 1987 – Stanley Kunitz
- 1989 – Edgar Bowers
- 1991 – Laura Riding Jackson and Donald Justice
- 1993 – Mark Strand
- 1995 – Kenneth Koch
- 1997 – Gary Snyder
- 1999 – Robert Creeley
- 2001 – Louise Glück
- 2003 – Adrienne Rich
- 2005 – Jay Wright
- 2007 – Frank Bidart
- 2009 – Allen Grossman
- 2011 – Susan Howe
- 2013 – Charles Wright
- 2015 – Nathaniel Mackey
- 2017 – Jean Valentine
- 2019 – Charles Bernstein
- 2021 – Mei-mei Berssenbrugge
When awarded annually
- 1949 – Ezra Pound
- 1950 – Wallace Stevens
- 1951 – John Crowe Ransom
- 1952 – Marianne Moore
- 1953 – Archibald MacLeish and William Carlos Williams
- 1954 – W. H. Auden
- 1955 – Léonie Adams and Louise Bogan
- 1956 – Conrad Aiken
- 1957 – Allen Tate
- 1958 – E. E. Cummings
- 1959 – Theodore Roethke
- 1960 – Delmore Schwartz and David Jones
- 1961 – Yvor Winters
- 1962 – John Hall Wheelock and Richard Eberhart
- 1963 – Robert Frost
- List of American literary awards
- List of literary awards
- List of poetry awards
- List of years in literature
- List of years in poetry
- "The Bollingen Prize for Poetry at Yale," Archived May 19, 2011, at the Wayback Machine webpage maintained by Yale University. Retrieved November 9, 2007.
- Britannica online.
- McGuire, William (1982). Bollingen: An Adventure in Collecting the Past (Princeton University Press:Bollingen Series, New Jersey).
- McGuire, William (1988). "Ezra Pound and Bollingen Prize controversy," in Poetry's Catbird Seat (the consultantship in poetry in the English language at the Library of Congress, 1937–1987) (Library of Congress, Washington, D. C.). ISBN 0-8444-0586-8 . Online version retrieved November 10, 2007.
- "Mei-mei Berssenbrugge wins Yale's 2021 Bollingen Prize for Poetry | the Bollingen Prize for Poetry".