|Ai and Lucille Clifton were winners of the National Book Award for Poetry in 1999 and 2000, respectively.|
After recent conversations with the literary scholar Laura Vrana, I became curious about the finalists for the National Book Award for Poetry. A look back made me aware that the rate at which African American poets have become finalists for the award has rapidly increased.
Between 1990 and 1999, 6 African American poets were finalists for the National Book Award for Poetry: Marilyn Nelson in 1991, Lucille Clifton in 1996, Marilyn Nelson in 1997, Carl Phillips in 1998, and Ai and Clarence Major in 1999.
Between 2000 and 2009, 10 African American poets were finalists for the award: Lucille Clifton in 2000, Wanda Coleman and Cornelius Eady in 2001, Harryette Mullen in 2002, Kevin Young in 2003, Carl Phillips in 2004, Nathaniel Mackey in 2006, Patricia Smith in 2008, and Carl Phillips and Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon in 2009.
In 2001, Marilyn Nelson's Carver: A Life in Poems was a finalist in the Young People's Literature category.
Between 2010 and 2015, 11 African American poets were finalists: Terrance Hayes in 2010, Nikky Finney, Yusef Komunyakaa, and Carl Phillips in 2011, Tim Seibles in 2012, Adrian Matejka in 2013, Fred Moten and Claudia Rankine in 2014, and Robin Coste Lewis, Ross Gay, and Terrance Hayes in 2015.
There was one African American winner during the 1990s: Ai won in 1999. There were was one winner between 2000 and 2009: Lucille Clifton won in 2000. There were three winners between 2010 and 2015: Terrance Hayes won in 2010, Nikky Finney won in 2011, and Robin Coste Lewis won in 2015.
• A Notebook on prizes, awards & fellowships
• Robin Coste Lewis, Black poets & the National Book Award