Nikki Giovanni and Haki Madhubuti among recipients of the 2022 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize

The Poetry Foundation honored the lifetime achievements of 11 poets with the Ruth Lilly Prize this year, including Sonia Sanchez, Angela Jackson, and Rita Dove

Eleven poets were celebrated as history-making as they joined the remarkable list of recipients of the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, one of the most prestigious awards in poetry, on Thursday at the Poetry Foundation’s 2022 Pegasus Awards ceremony held in Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art. 

2022 Pegasus Awards Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize
From left: Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize winners Sandra Cisneros, Angela Jackson, Kevin Quashie, Pegasus Book Criticism Prize winner, Nikki Giovanni, CAConrad, Arthur Sze, Rita Dove, Haki Madhubuti, Sharon Olds, Juan Felipe Herrera, and Patti Smith. Photo: Courtesy of the Poetry Foundation

“It is a gift that we, at the Poetry Foundation, can recognize this diverse, dynamic group of artists,” said Michelle T. Boone, president of the Poetry Foundation. “This year’s Pegasus Award winners have touched many lives across generations and will continue to do so in immeasurable ways. Through their work, each of these honorees has given of themselves to others; we are grateful to them, and it was a joy to celebrate alongside them.”

The Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize recognizes a poet’s lifetime achievements and typically is awarded to only one poet each year. However, in honor of the 110th anniversary of Poetry magazine, the Poetry Foundation awarded 10 additional poets with this recognition.

“We saw [the 11 spots] as an opportunity to highlight writers who have done significant work over the years, but maybe haven’t gotten the kind of attention that they should have,” said Adrian Matejka, the editor-in-chief of Poetry magazine. “They’re poets who have been actively engaged in the community and have done so much work to support other poets … so this is one small way for us to be able to honor them and thank them.”

The honorees of this year’s award are Sandra Cisneros, CAConrad, Rita Dove, Nikki Giovanni, Juan Felipe Herrera, Angela Jackson, Haki Madhubuti, Sharon Olds, Sonia Sanchez, Patti Smith, and Arthur Sze. Jackson described the feeling of receiving the award as “absolutely thrilling.” For her, it was a dream she had always wished for but never thought would happen. 

Echoing Jackson’s sentiments, Dove described the recognition as a “huge deal.” Acknowledging that both the Poetry Foundation and Poetry magazine have been pillars of American literature, she said she feels honored to be a recipient — and to be among such good company with the other honorees. 

“The work I’ve tried to do [as a poet] is only possible because of the work they did,” Matejka told theGrio. “Everything that I tried to be as an artist on the page [and] as a citizen of the poetry community was modeled for me by the recipients of this award. They’re all brilliant poets, but also dedicated to supporting and growing the poetry community. Art is only sustainable when the artists take care of each other, and I think that every one of the winners this year does the same kind of work, but in different ways.”

Updated: Monday, 10/31/22 at 11:18 a.m., ET: An earlier version of this article included an incorrect caption header photo, identifying Pegasus Book Criticism Prize winner Kevin Quashie (third from left) as a guest of Angela Jackson. The caption also indicated that Sonia Sanchez was included in the photograph when she was, in fact, unable to attend. The caption has since been amended.

Kayla Grant

Kayla Grant is a multimedia journalist with bylines in Business Insider, Shondaland, Oz Magazine, Prism, Rolling Out and more. She writes about culture, books and entertainment news. Follow her on Twitter: @TheKaylaGrant.

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