Poet David Ferry, a Distinguished Visiting Scholar at Suffolk University since 2009, has won the 2011 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, which recognizes the extraordinary lifetime accomplishments of a living U.S. poet.

The $100,000 prize is sponsored by the Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, and is considered one of the most prestigious awards given to American poets.

Treasured by students

The poet has taught honors seminars on classics and translation in Suffolk University’s English Department each semester since fall 2009. Ferry also is a regular guest lecturer in poetry classes, and he gives readings of his works at the University’s Poetry Center. He will return for a third year as a distinguished visiting professor in fall 2011.

“David has found a new life with these Suffolk students,” said Visiting Professor of English George Kalogeris. “The students really seem to love him, and he has a great relationship with them.”

Ferry, a professor emeritus at Wellesley College, has been working on a new translation of Virgil’s Aeneid while at Suffolk University and is now on the sixth book of the 12-volume epic.

Books of poetry and translation

His books of poetry and translation include His Epistles of Horace: A Translation; Of No Country I Know: New and Selected Poems and Translations; The Eclogues of Virgil; The Odes of Horace: A Translation; Dwelling Places: Poems and Translations; Gilgamesh: A New Rendering in English Verse; Strangers: A Book of Poems; On the Way to the Island; and The Limits of Mortality: An Essay on Wordsworth's Major Poems.

Over the course of his career, Ferry has received many awards and fellowships, including a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets, the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry from the Library of Congress, and an Academy Award for Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

The Poetry 2011 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize will be presented at the Pegasus Awards ceremony at the Arts Club of Chicago on Wednesday, May 11.

“David Ferry is probably best known as a translator—and his achievements in that regard are extraordinary—but I think in the end it will be his poems that last,” said Christian Wiman, editor of Poetry magazine, in making the announcement. “In a time when most poetry relies on intense surface energy, Ferry’s effects are muted and subterranean—but then, in their cumulative effect, seismic. For 50 years he has practiced poetry as if it truly matters to our lives and to our souls—and now his poems have that rare power to wake us up to both.”