Hutchinson wins National Book Critics Circle poetry award

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Rebecca Valli
Ishion Hutchinson
Beowulf Sheehan/Provided
Assistant professor of English Ishion Hutchinson.

Assistant professor of English Ishion Hutchinson has won the National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) Award for poetry for his 2016 collection, “House of Lords and Commons.”

The annual awards for fiction, nonfiction, biography, autobiography, poetry and criticism were announced March 16. “House of Lords and Commons” explores the landscape of Jamaica and Hutchinson’s memories of growing up there in Port Antonio.

“I think about the landscape of my childhood, the variety and exquisite complexity of living in a place that offers so much,” Hutchinson said in a December interview. “I appreciate the richness of home, and I am still a part of it.”

In a review as part of a series on all 30 NBCC finalists leading up to the awards ceremony, critic Tess Taylor called the book “ragged and fiercely beautiful. Its double-edged language is inviting and unsettling. … Hutchinson’s poems are the skeins a thinker makes of trouble, inequality, global travel, lost time.”

“House of Lords and Commons” also received glowing reviews in The New York Times Book Review, The Guardian, The New Yorker and other publications. It is Hutchinson’s second book of poetry; his previous collection, “Far District: Poems,” was published in 2010. He won a Whiting Writers’ Award in 2013.

Hutchinson, the Meringoff Sesquicentennial Faculty Fellow in the College of Arts and Sciences, joined the Cornell faculty in 2012. He teaches poetry in the Department of English and mentors young writers in the Creative Writing Program.

His poetry was set to music by Cornell graduate student composers for “Song of the Land: Poems of Ishion Hutchinson,” a concert March 18 in Barnes Hall, performed by pianist Xak Bjerken, mezzo-soprano Rachel Calloway and Ensemble X.

The NBCC awards are open to any book published in English in the United States, and the six winners were selected by the NBCC board of directors. Founded in 1974, the organization is made up of more than 700 literary critics and editors.

The award winners for 2016 also include sociologist Matthew Desmond (who spoke on campus in November about “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City,” which earned him the nonfiction award); Native American novelist Louise Erdrich (for “LaRose”) and Canadian author Margaret Atwood, who was given the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award.


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