The Bollingen Prize for Poetry is a literary honor bestowed on an American poet in recognition of the best book of new verse within the last two years, or for lifetime achievement. It is awarded every two years by the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library of Yale University,
Inception and controversy
The prize was established in 1948 by Paul Mellon, and was funded by a US$10,000 grant from the Bollingen Foundation to the Library of Congress. Both the prize and the foundation are named after the village of Bollingen, Switzerland, where Carl Jung had a country retreat, the Bollingen Tower. The inaugural prize, chosen by a jury of Fellows in American Letters of the Library of Congress, was awarded to Ezra Pound for his collection of poems The Pisan Cantos.
The choosing of a work by a man who had been a committed fascist sympathizer infuriated many people in Cold War America, and political pressure led Congress to end the Library of Congress's involvement in the program. The unused portion of the grant was returned to the Bollingen Foundation in 1949.
Continuance through the Yale University Library
The Bollingen Foundation decided to continue the program, with the administrative tasks being handled by the Yale University Library. The prize was awarded annually from 1948 to 1963. In 1963 the amount of the award was increased to $5,000, and thereafter it was given every other year. After 1968, when the Bollingen Foundation was dissolved, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation took over. In 1973 the Mellon Foundation established an endowment of $100,000 to enable the Yale Library to continue awarding the prize in perpetuity.
In 1961 a similar prize was set up by the Bollingen Foundation for best translation and it was won by Robert Fitzgerald for his translation of the Odyssey. It has also been won by Walter W. Arndt for his translation of Eugene Onegin, and in 1963 by Richard Wilbur and Mona Van Duyn jointly.
Each year links to its corresponding "[year] in poetry" article:
When awarded annually
- American poetry
- Bollingen Foundation
- Bollingen Tower
- Carl Jung
- List of American literary awards
- List of literary awards
- List of poetry awards
- List of years in literature
- List of years in poetry