Distinguished Professor of English Patricia Smith-DeSilva has been awarded the Poetry Foundation’s Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize.

“I’m thrilled to see that everything I’ve learned–from every single person in every audience, from every reader, from every witness named poet–has led me all the way here,” Prof. Smith-DeSilva said. “There’s no greater realization–knowing that someone has heard you, and because of that something has changed.”

According to The Poetry Foundation, “The Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize annually honors a living U.S. poet with an award of $100,000 in recognition of their outstanding lifetime achievement. It is one of the most prestigious awards given to American poets and one of the nation’s largest literary prizes.”

Regarding her origins as a poet, Prof. Smith-DeSilva noted, “I began in poetry by getting up on the stage of a chaotic blues club in Chicago, hoping that I had something to say that might reach someone in the audience. It was all about exchanging stories, finding parallels in the lives of other people. There’s no better way to communicate. A poem can encompass any story—it’s the exercising of every muscle that language has.”

Previous Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize winners include some of the most important poets in modern American literature, including Adrienne Rich, Gary Snyder, Lucille Clifton, and Yusef Komunyakaa. 

By Terry Mares