Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, 2011


John Ashbery Received Lifetime Achievement Awards at
the 2011 National Book Award Ceremony

John AshberyThe National Book Foundation, presenter of the National Book Awards, awarded its 2011 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters to National Book Award Winner and a four-time Finalist John Ashbery in recognition of his outstanding achievements as a twentieth-century poet. For more than fifty years he has been an inspiring, motivating, and guiding force in contemporary poetry. He will receive his Medal at the 62nd National Book Awards Ceremony and Benefit Dinner at Cipriani, Wall Street, in New York City on Wednesday, November 16, 2011. The evening was hosted by actor, writer, and musician John Lithgow.

John Ashbery is the twenty-first recipient of the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. Previous recipients include Toni Morrison, John Updike, Norman Mailer, Joan Didion, Maxine Hong Kingston, Gore Vidal, and Tom Wolfe


John Ashbery

John Ashbery, 1975Born in Rochester, New York, John Ashbery received a B.A. from Harvard University, and an M.A. from Columbia University. He has published numerous poetry collections, beginning in 1953 with Turandot and Other Poems (Tibor de Nagy Editions). In 1956, his book Some Trees was selected by W.H. Auden to be included in the Yale Younger Poets Series. The influential poet has won nearly every major American award and has been internationally recognized. His Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror (Viking, 1975) won three major American prizes: the National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize, and the National Book Critics Circle Award. He was also the first English-language poet to win the Grand Prix Biennales Internationales de Poesie (Brussels). His most recent publication is a translation of Arthur Rimbaud’s Illuminations, published earlier this year by W.W. Norton & Co.

John Ashbery, 1975Ashbery is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and was a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 1988 to 1999. He has received two Guggenheim Fellowships and was a MacArthur Fellow from 1985 to 1990. Ashbery was recently awarded the Medal of the Center for French Civilization and Culture by New York University for his translations and his long connection to French literature. His own work has been translated into more than twenty-five languages.

John Ashbery, 1975Ashbery served as poet laureate of New York State from 2001 to 2003 and the poet laureate of MTVU from 2007 to 2009. He has published numerous translations from the French, including works by Pierre Reverdy, Arthur Rimbaud, Raymond Roussel, and several collections of poems by Pierre Martory. In addition to his poetry, Ashbery has written about the visual arts. He served as executive editor of Art News (1965-72), and art critic for New York Magazine (1978-80) and Newsweek (1980-85). A selection of his art writings was published by Knopf in 1989 as Reported Sightings: Art Chronicles 1957-1987. The first solo exhibition of his collages was held in 2008 at the Tibor de Nagy Gallery in New York, where his new collages will be on exhibit from October 20 through December 3, 2011. His other published works include a collection of plays and a novel, A Nest of Ninnies (1969), with James Schuyler.

Photo credit: 2005, Lynn Davis. 1974 - NBF Archives.


Ann Lauterbach

Ann Lauterbach, poetAnn Lauterbach has published eight books of poems and an essay collection, The Night Sky: Writings on the Poetics of Experience, as well as a number of collaborations with visual artists. Her most recent chapbook is “The Given & The Chosen” (Omnidawn 2011). She has been, since 1990, co-Chair of Writing in the Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts at Bard College, where she is also Schwab Professor of Languages and Literature, and is a Visiting Critic at the Yale School of Art. Her awards include fellowships from the Guggenheim and MacArthur foundations; her last poetry collection, Or to Begin Again (Penguin, 2009), was nominated for a National Book Award.