Sandra Lim Honored with 2023 Jackson Poetry Prize, $85K

UMass Lowell English Professor Sandra Lim Image by Young Suh
UMass Lowell English Professor Sandra Lim


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UMass Lowell English Professor Sandra Lim has received the 2023 Jackson Poetry Prize, which recognizes American poets of exceptional talent.

The prize, announced Wednesday, is awarded annually by Poets & Writers and is endowed by a gift from the Liana Foundation. The honor, which includes a monetary award of $85,000 to the recipient, is named for the John and Susan Jackson family. 

“I am still dizzy with surprise, but I’m overjoyed. Mostly, I’m deeply honored that these judges read my work – it’s the best gift,” said Lim of her selection as this year’s honoree. 

Choosing Lim were award judges Joy Harjo, who served three terms as the 23rd Poet Laureate of the United States from 2019 to 2022; poet and critic Carl Phillips; and poet, art critic and curator John Yau, each previous recipients of the prize. To be eligible, award candidates must have published at least two books of acknowledged literary merit. There is no application process; instead, candidates are nominated by a panel of their peers, who remain anonymous. 

“Lim confronts the larger, defining abstractions of our lives – love, death, betrayal, the power dynamics of body and soul – in poems that ultimately defy easy category, refuse expectation, and have quietly challenged and reinvigorated the possibilities for what a poem can do, and how. It’s a poetry of interrogation, whose fierceness lies, paradoxically, in its quiet steadiness and precision,” the judges wrote in a citation identifying Lim as the 2023 prize recipient.

An authority on poetry and 20th century literature, Lim has taught at UMass Lowell since 2010. In February, she was a keynote speaker who read from her work and discussed her creative process at a free university “Writers on Campus” event for students and the public. Born in Seoul, Korea, she lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Poets & Writers will honor her as the 17th recipient of the Jackson prize with a celebration later this spring. 

“The UMass Lowell English Department is immensely proud of Sandra Lim’s Jackson Poetry Prize. We are excited that the world has further evidence of what the department already knows: Dr. Lim is a wonderfully talented poet, an inspiring colleague and standout teacher,” said Professor Jonathan Silverman, the department’s chair.

Lim is the author of “The Curious Thing;” as well as “The Wilderness,” winner of the Barnard Women Poets Prize; and “Loveliest Grotesque,” which received the Kore Press First Book Award. Her writing has appeared in numerous literary journals, including The New York Review of Books, Poetry, The New Republic, The Baffler, and The New York Times Magazine, among others. Her honors include a 2021 Guggenheim Fellowship, a 2020 Arts and Letters Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the 2015 Levis Reading Prize for “The Wilderness,” Pushcart prizes, as well as residency fellowships from MacDowell, the Vermont Studio Center, and the Getty Foundation. 

Poets & Writers, which publishes Poets & Writers Magazine, is a nonprofit organization that fosters the professional development of poets, fiction and creative nonfiction writers while promoting an appreciation of literature among the public. 

UMass Lowell is a national research university located on a high-energy campus in the heart of a global community. The university offers its students bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in business, education, engineering, fine arts, health, humanities, sciences and social sciences. UMass Lowell delivers high-quality educational programs, vigorous hands-on learning and personal attention from leading faculty and staff, all of which prepare graduates to be ready for work, for life and for all the world offers.