Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

At Last!

In her ninetieth year, Eleanor Ross Taylor Wins the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize—and $100,000

April 15, 2010 The Poetry Foundation has announced the 2010 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, and the winner of the award, which carries a stipend of $100,000, is Eleanor Ross Taylor. The widow of acclaimed novelist Peter Taylor, Eleanor Ross Taylor made no apologies in her youth for downplaying her own artistic dreams to support her husband’s stratospheric literary career. Nevertheless, with his encouragement, she wrote steadily during the years of their marriage, publishing her first book at age 40 and following it with a book, on average, every decade. The last years of her life—she was born in 1920—have yielded an unexpected bounty of both work and literary honors, though the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, given to “a living U.S. poet whose lifetime accomplishments warrant extraordinary recognition,” is by far the most prestigious.

“We live in a time when poetic styles seem to become more antic and frantic by the day, and Taylor’s voice has been muted from the start. Muted, not quiet,” said Christian Wiman, editor of Poetry magazine. “You can’t read these poems without feeling the pent-up energy in them, the focused, even frustrated compression, and then the occasional clear lyric fury. And yet you can’t read them without feeling, as well, a bracing sense of spiritual largesse and some great inner liberty.”

The full citation from the Poetry Foundation is available here. Read Diann Blakely’s reminiscence of Eleanor Ross Taylor for Chapter 16 here.