Sonia Sanchez

Sonia Sanchez was announced the winner of the Jackson Poetry Prize on Tuesday, April 26, 2022.

The Jackson Poetry Prize, established in 2006 with a gift from the Liana Foundation and is named for the John and Susan Jackson family, honours an American poet of exceptional talent. Eligible poets must have published at least two books of acknowledged literary merit. There is no application process for the Jackson Poetry Prize; nominees are identified by a group of poets selected by Poets & Writers who remain anonymous.  Some of the previous recipients have been Carl Phillips (2021), Ed Roberson (2020), Joy Harjo (2019), John Yau (2018), Patricia Spears Jones (2017), Will Alexander (2016), X. J. Kennedy (2015), Claudia Rankine (2014), Arthur Sze (2013), Henri Cole (2012), James Richardson (2011), Harryette Mullen (2010), Linda Gregg (2009), Tony Hoagland (2008), and Elizabeth Alexander (2007).

The award for 2022 was judged by a panel of acclaimed poets Mary Jo Bang, Marilyn Chin, and Claudia Rankine. They announced the recipient of the prize this year is Sonia Sanchez. In their citation the judges extolled the impact of Sanchez’s work:

“Over her seven-decade career, Sonia Sanchez has distinguished herself as a major figure in American letters. A founding member of the Black Arts Movement, she has taught generations of poets—creating essential spaces for Black Studies where none previously existed. … Her vast and commanding oeuvre of published poetry invokes the power and revolutionary properties of language itself—intoning the struggles and joys of entire communities while reinvigorating traditional forms. … Sonia Sanchez is a national treasure.” The judges also referenced the praise offered by the late Toni Morrison, who said of Sanchez: “You have spoken for us…Written for us…Sung to us…How much in your debt we are.”

Sanchez is the author of over twenty books and is a poet, professor, and international lecturer on Black culture and literature, women’s liberation, peace, and racial justice. Upon learning that she is this year’s Jackson Poetry Prize winner, Ms. Sanchez quoted a line from her book Morning Haiku (Beacon Press, 2010): “Let me wear the day / Well so when it reaches you / You will enjoy it.” Expressing gratitude to Poets & Writers, the Jackson family, and the judges, she added: “I promise to continue to wear my days well as I move in the light that is your organization of dedicated supporters and lovers of poetry.”

The poet goes home with the cash prize of $80,000 when a ceremony is hosted in her honour later in the year.