Announcing the 2012 Frost Medalist, Marilyn Nelson

The Poetry Society of America is honored to announce that Marilyn Nelson is the 2012 recipient of the organization's highest award, the Frost Medal, presented annually for "distinguished lifetime achievement in poetry." Previous winners of this award include Wallace Stevens, Gwendolyn Brooks, Allen Ginsberg, Marianne Moore, and Charles Simic, who was the 2011 recipient.

Marilyn Nelson was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on April, 26, 1946. She is the author or translator of fourteen books, including The Homeplace (1990) and The Fields of Praise: New and Selected Poems (1997), both of which were finalists for the National Book Award. Her numerous children's books include, Carver: A Life in Poems (2001 ) which received the Flora Stieglitz Straus Award and the Boston Globe/Horn Book Award. It was also a National Book Award finalist, and was designated as both a Newbery Honor Book and a Coretta Scott King Honor Book. Her young adult book, A Wreath For Emmett Till, also won the 2005 Boston Globe–Horn Book Award and was also designated a 2006 Coretta Scott King Honor Book, a 2006 Michael L. Printz Honor Book, and a 2006 Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award Honor Book.  Her honors include two NEA creative writing fellowships, the 1990 Connecticut Arts Award, an A.C.L.S. Contemplative Practices Fellowship, the Department of the Army's Commander's Award for Public Service, and a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Nelson is a professor emerita of English at the University of Connecticut; was founder/director and host of Soul Mountain Retreat, a small non-profit writers' colony (2004-2010) and held the office of Poet Laureate of the State of Connecticut from 2001-2006.

How I Discovered Poetry
Marilyn Nelson 

It was like soul-kissing, the way the words
filled my mouth as Mrs. Purdy read from her desk.
All the other kids zoned an hour ahead to 3:15,
but Mrs. Purdy and I wandered lonely as clouds borne
by a breeze off Mount Parnassus. She must have seen
the darkest eyes in the room brim: The next day
she gave me a poem she'd chosen especially for me
to read to the all except for me white class.
She smiled when she told me to read it, smiled harder,
said oh yes I could. She smiled harder and harder
until I stood and opened my mouth to banjo playing
darkies, pickaninnies, disses and dats. When I finished
my classmates stared at the floor. We walked silent
to the buses, awed by the power of words.

* * *

The Robert Frost Medal is given by the Poetry Society of America to honor "distinguished lifetime achievement in poetry." Early recipients of this award, inaugurated in 1930 and originally called the Gold Medal, include Robert Frost, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Wallace Stevens, and Marianne Moore. In 1984, to honor Robert Frost's longstanding association with the organization, including his tenure as Honorary President from 1940-1963, the award was renamed and subsequent winners include Gwendolyn Brooks, Denise Levertov, Donald Hall, Adrienne Rich, John Ashbery, Sonia Sanchez, Barbara Guest, Michael S. Harper, and most recently Charles Simic in 2011.

The 2012 Annual Awards ceremony, which will celebrate all the winners of the 14 annual PSA awards, will take place in April in New York City. In keeping with tradition, after the presentation of the Medal, Marilyn Nelson will deliver the Frost Lecture.  

The Poetry Society of America, the nation's oldest poetry organization, was founded in 1910 for the purpose of creating a public forum for the advancement, enjoyment, and understanding of poetry. Through a diverse array of programs, initiatives, contests, and awards, the PSA works to build a larger audience for poetry, to encourage a deeper appreciation of the art, and to place poetry at the crossroads of American life.

Categories: Awards

10 Comments for Announcing the 2012 Frost Medalist, Marilyn Nelson

I had the honor of studying with Marilyn Nelson at the University of Connecticut in the late 1990s. Marilyn taught seemingly without teaching because she so infused us, her class, with her love of poetry. She excited us with her artistic passion while at the same time challenging us to experience writing in poetic forms - we were unfamiliar with till then. Last summer Marilyn was the guest poet at a summer series "Reading in the Park" in Windham CT. I did a poem at the "open mic" & after Marilyn called me over, her luminous eyes dancing, to talk & tell me how happy she was to see me still writing poetry. I know that Marilyn has been an inspiratiopn & muse to many of us! I am so happy she is being honored with this major award.

—Willa Correnti

Posted Fri, Jan 6, 2012 at 1:03 pm

Marilyn Nelson is a national treasure and so deserving of this award. Not only is she an incredibly talented poet, she is also a tireless poetry activist and advocate. I am thrilled to hear that she is being honored in this way. Congratulations to Marilyn and to the Poetry Society of America!

—Lesléa Newman

Posted Sat, Jan 7, 2012 at 5:02 pm

I adore her poetry! Congratulations on a well-deserved, Ms. Nelson!


Posted Sun, Jan 8, 2012 at 4:32 pm

This is wonderful news.From her first book, Marilyn has imprinted our lives with her poetry.

—Grace Cavalieri

Posted Mon, Jan 9, 2012 at 10:23 am

Marilyn was recorded on "The Poet and the Poem from the Library of Congress" and is among the most listened to poet in the archives. This is a just honor.
Grace Cavalieri, Producer "The Poet and the Poem."

—Grace Cavalieri

Posted Mon, Jan 9, 2012 at 10:25 am

A beautiful poet, producing extremely moving and necessary work while tackling the ins and outs of poetics at every angle –

Marilyn is a living legacy and Grace is exactly right: a just honor!

Congratulations to Marilyn Nelson and gratitude to PSA for the honor bestowed!

Allison Hedge Coke

—Allison Hedge Coke

Posted Mon, Jan 9, 2012 at 8:56 pm

Marilyn Nelson is one of the nation's finest poets, and takes on subjects that change us all. This is a well-deserved honor.

—Kim Bridgford

Posted Thu, Jan 12, 2012 at 10:41 am

Not only is Dr. Nelson one of this planets greatest poetry writer she is a
true human being that has help others in need all over this globe. I would like to think her for helping to get Pembas
Song,published I and others oh her much.

—Donald G. Washington ,Abraham

Posted Thu, Jan 19, 2012 at 12:57 pm

I would like to take this time to congratulation Marilyn Nelson for her outstanding achievements throughout her lifetime. Think you for sharing your poetry with the world. Your dedication and hard work has inspired me. The (power of words) has truly amazed me.

Joyce Adam Thank, you!

—Joyce Adams

Posted Sun, Jan 29, 2012 at 9:04 am

I would like to congratulate Mrs. Marilyn Nelson for her many outstanding accomplishments. She is truly blessed with a wonderful talent.
Mrs. Nelson has used her talents tremendously in so many ways. It is so good to know that such an outstanding and wonderful person as herself still do exists in our society, we as a nation is blessed to have her here in America, I also admire the fact that she loves poetry. It is always amazing to read such inspiring and wonderful art by an
inspiring poet as herself. I also Thank God for Poetry Society.

—Shirley Long

Posted Mon, Feb 20, 2012 at 3:55 pm


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