Poetry Foundation recognizes and honors writers with the 2022 Pegasus Awards

Dr. Haki Madhubuti, founder of Third World Press is one of 11 writers recognized by The Poetry Foundation with the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. PHOTO PROVIDED BY THE POETRY FOUNDATION.
Dr. Haki Madhubuti, founder of Third World Press is one of 11 writers recognized by The Poetry Foundation with the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. PHOTO PROVIDED BY THE POETRY FOUNDATION.

Poetry Foundation recognizes and honors writers with the 2022 Pegasus Awards

By Tia Carol Jones

Dr. Haki R. Madhubuti founded Third World Press in 1967 in his basement apartment in Englewood on 62nd and Ada, with $200 and a lithograph machine. The idea was that Black people needed to read books unfiltered and uncensored. His love of books began when he read Richard Wright’s “Black Boy” at the age of 14.

“For the first time in my life, I was reading literature that wasn’t an insult to my own personhood. I was reading words and sentences and paragraphs and pages and chapters about me, about our struggle,” Madhubuti said.


That book, plus others, changed Madhubuti’s young life. As he read he began to understand that “if you don’t know who you are, anybody can name you, and they will.”


Madhubuti is one of 11 writers who are being recognized with the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, which is part of the Poetry Foundation’s 2022 Pegasus Awards. Other award recipients include Sandra Cisneros, CAConrad, Rita Dove, Juan Felipe Hererra, Angela Jackson, Sharon Olds, Patti Smith, Arthur Sze, Sonia Sanchez and Nikki Giovanni. Elizabeth Acevedo has been named 2022-2024 Young People’s Poet Laureate and Kevin Quashie has won the Pegasus Award for Poetry Criticism.


“We’re celebrating 110 years of Poetry magazine this year, and approaching 20 years of the Poetry Foundation in 2023. We wanted to do something special to mark these milestones by honoring an outstanding cohort of writers whose work has brought comfort and inspiration to so many,” Poetry Foundation President Michelle T. Boone said in a release. “Poetry shows us the way forward, and there is no poetry without the imagination and talent of those behind the pen.”


Madhubuti was influenced by Black music, which was his first love. His early years were spent between Chicago and Detroit, and Motown played a very important part of his life. Reading Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, who he said changed his life, Claude McKay and Margaret Walker had a greater influence on him than the music, although the music stayed in his heart. He took the musical background and put it into his poetry.


Inspired by Dr. Margaret Burroughs and her husband Charlie Burroughs and their creation of the Ebony Museum of Negro History, which became the DuSable Black History Museum and Education Center and Dudley Randall, who created Broadside Press in Detroit, he decided to start a publishing company.


“We need independent Black institutions. Any people who do not have institutional structures that genuinely work for that people will be in serious trouble,” he said.


Madhubuti has published more than 30 books. He has also, with Third World Press and Third World Press Foundation, co-founded the Betty Shabazz International Charter School in 1998, the Barbara A. Sizemore Middle School in 2005, and the DuSable Leadership Academy in 2005. He taught at Columbia College Chicago, Cornell University and Chicago State University.


“Everything that has happened in my life and the lives of people I’ve worked with over the last 60 years, is a result of poetry,” Madhubuti said.
Madhubuti said the reason why he has stayed the course is because he loves Black people and there’s nothing more important to him than his people. He is grateful for the recognition from the Poetry Foundation.

“This award comes at a time when I’ve worked all my life for Black people,” he said. “I know who we are and what we need, and we need independent Black institutions.”

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