The Golden Rose, one of America’s oldest literary prizes, was inaugurated in 1919 by the
Second Church of Boston as a way to celebrate May Day by holding a poetry tournament
in the style of the French Provençal poets who vied in “Les Jeux Floraux” in the Middle
Ages. The rose was styled after the Gold Rose for which the French poets vied and which
is now kept in the Cluny Museum in Paris.
However, the tournament in Boston was not a success. Reverend Shipton, whose idea it
was, decided American poets did not want a competition for the award. So, he gave the
Rose to the New England Poetry Club, asking us to award it annually to a poet who had
done the most for poetry in that year or during a lifetime.
The Club continues that tradition by awarding the Rose to the poet, who by their poetry
and inspiration to and encouragement of other writers, has made a significant mark on
American poetry. The Club has traditionally given the prize to a poet with some ties to
New England so that a public reading may take place.
The Golden Rose Award carries no monetary prize and is considered an honor to receive.
The name of the poet is inscribed on the box along side the names of all the previous
recipients. On occasion, sponsors, such as Kenneth Gloss, an antiquarian book expert, or
the Friends of Longfellow, have sponsored the winning poet’s trip or awarded an
Winners have included three Nobel Laureates: Seamus Heaney, Derek Walcott and
Czeslaw Milosz, and several Pulitzer Prize recipients, all of whom received the Golden
Rose before their international acclaim. Other winners include American icons Robert
Frost, Katherine Lee Bates, Archibald MacLeish, David McCord, Robert Lowell, Stanley
Kunitz, X.J. Kennedy, May Sarton, Adrienne Rich, Robert Penn Warren, John Updike
and Lawrence Ferlinghetti.