Rhodes Alumna Patricia Spears Jones ’73 Wins Prestigious Jackson Poetry Prize

a middle-aged African American woman smiling at an award show
Patricia Spears Jones '73

Poet Patricia Spears Jones, a 1973 Rhodes alumna, is the 2017 recipient of the Jackson Poetry Prize presented by Poets & Writers, a New York-based service organization for creative writers. The $50,000 prize is among the most substantial given to an American poet and is designed to provide poets time and encouragement to write.

A panel of three poets—Henri Cole, Kwame Dawes, and Mary Szybist—was charged with selecting the winner. In their citation, the judges describe Jones’ poems as “made of fever, bones, and breath,” and they say she “has steadily and quietly enriched the American poetic tradition with sophisticated and moving poems. More of us should know who she is, and even more should read her.”

Jones’ most recent collection of poems, A Lucent Fire: New and Selected Poems (2015), was a finalist for the Poetry Society of America’s 2016 William Carlos Williams Prize, as well as for the Paterson Poetry Prize. Her earlier volumes of poetry include Painkiller, Femme du Monde, and The Weather That Kills. Previous honors include a 2016 Pushcart Prize, a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship, and awards from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, Goethe-Institut, the New York Foundation for the Arts, Foundation for Contemporary Arts, and the New York Community Trust.

Also a playwright and cultural commentator, Jones has lived in New York City since the 1970s where she has been involved in the city’s literary and theater scenes. She is originally from Forrest City, AR, and at Rhodes College was involved in organizations such as the Black Student Association, The Sou′wester newspaper, the Publications Board, and the Kinney Program, which is dedicated to community service. She received a bachelor’s degree in communication arts in 1973. 

In 2013, Jones received the Distinguished Alumni Award presented by Rhodes’ Black Student Association.