Claudia Rankine Wins Fall for the Book’s First Busboys and Poets Poetry Award

Posted: June 20, 2011 at 1:02 am, Last Updated: June 15, 2011 at 10:57 am

By Art Taylor

This year, Fall for the Book joins Busboys and Poets, a Washington, D.C., area chain of restaurants, bookstores, fair trade markets and gathering places, to inaugurate the Busboys and Poets Award for poetry.

Claudia Rankine is the first winner of the Busboys and Poets Award. She will accept the award on Thursday, Sept. 22, in Harris Theater on Mason’s Fairfax Campus.

Through its name, the award not only recognizes the work of the poet chosen to receive it but also pays tribute to Langston Hughes, who worked as a busboy at the Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, D.C., during the 1920s before he gained recognition as a poet.

A Popular and Provocative Poet

Claudia Rankine, first winner of the Fall for the Book's Busboys and Poets Award for poetry. Photo courtesy of Fall for the Book

Rankine, the Henry G. Lee Professor of Poetry at Pomona College, was chosen by the administrators of Fall for the Book and the festival’s poetry advisors. She will receive a plaque and $5,000.

“Rankine stands out as one of the nation’s most popular and most provocative poets,” says William Miller, executive director of Fall for the Book.

“Whether in her own award-winning work or in the discussions that she’s recently prompted on questions of race and representations of racial identity in literature, Rankine has proven to be frank, perceptive and innovative, both thoughtful and thought-provoking,” Miller adds.

Born in Kingston, Jamaica, and educated at Williams College and Columbia University, Rankine is the author of four collections of poetry, including the award-winning “Nothing in Nature Is Private.” Her other books are “The End of the Alphabet,” “Plot” and “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric.”

Rankine also co-edited the anthology “American Women Poets in the 21st Century: Where Lyric Meets Language.”

Rankine’s work is included in several anthologies, including “Great American Prose Poems: From Poe to the Present,” “Best American Poetry 2001,” “Giant Step: African American Writing at the Crossroads of the Century” and “The Garden Thrives: Twentieth Century African-American Poetry.”

“The characteristics of her work speak to the qualities that embody this new prize,” says Miller, “and ultimately to the ideals of Busboys and Poets, our partner, which strives to create spaces for community conversations on the topics that help to define us as individuals, as a people and as a nation.”

Other Fall for the Book Prizes

Two other authors have been named award winners for the 2011 Fall for the Book. Amy Tan will accept the Fairfax Prize on Tuesday, Sept. 20, and Stephen King will receive this year’s Mason Award on Friday, Sept. 23, the festival’s closing night. A fourth prize, the Mary Roberts Rinehart Award, which is given to a female writer of nonfiction, will be announced soon.

Fall for the Book is Northern Virginia’s oldest and largest festival of literature and the arts. Operating from a base at Mason’s Fairfax Campus, it hosts events at venues throughout the Washington, D.C., region.

All events are free and open to the public thanks to the generous support of sponsors such as the Fairfax County Public Library, the Association of Writers and Writing Programs and Mason’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences and Office of University Life, in partnership with other businesses and organizations.



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