Claudia Rankine

Claudia Rankine and Nathaniel Mackey Win Bobbitt National Poetry Prizes

The Library of Congress has announced that Claudia Rankine and Nathaniel Mackey have been awarded 2016 Bobbitt National Prizes for Poetry. Rankine was honored for her book Citizen: An American Lyric (2014), and Mackey for his lifetime achievement in poetry. Mackey is the author of six poetry collections, including his most recent anthology Blue Fasa (2015).

The biennial award recognizes a book of poetry written by an American author that was published during the preceding two years and the lifetime work of an American poet. Named for Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt of Austin—the sister of president Lyndon B. Johnson and a former employee of the Library of Congress—the prize includes a $10,000 award. Boston Poet Laureate Danielle Legros Georges; National Book Award–winning poet Mary Szybist; and scholar Betty Sue Flowers served on the judging panel.

In a recent interview with Lauren O’Neill Butler of, Rankine discussed her plans for the New York–based Racial Imaginary Institute, which will host exhibitions, performances, lectures, and talks that examine race as a social construct. Rankine said, “Our name ‘Racial Imaginary’ is meant to capture the enduring truth of race: It is an invented concept that nevertheless operates with extraordinary force in our daily lives, limiting our movements and imaginations.”

Rankine is participating in a program at the Whitney Museum of American Art on Sunday, April 9. For “Perspectives on Race and Representation: An Evening with the Racial Imaginary Institute,” Rankine is inviting artists, scholars, and critics to share perspectives on Dana Schutz’s controversial painting, Open Casket, 2016, as well as issues of race, violence, and the ethics of representation.