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 honorarium.
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.
Golden Rose Recipients
Earl Marlatt Marshall Schact Katherine Lee Bates Robert Frost Joseph Auslander Nancy Byrd Turner Robert Hillyer S. Foster Damon Frances Frost Archibald MacLeish Gretchen Warren Robert Tristram Coffin John Hall Wheelock John Holmes Leonore Speyer Kenneth Porter David McCord Robert Francis Amos Wilder Theodore Spencer May Sarton David Morton John Ciardi William Rose Benet Richard Eberhart Richard Wilbur Harry Elmore Hurd Harold Trowbridge Pulsifer Frances Minturn Howard Dorothy Burnham Eaton Samuel French Morse
Norma Farber Morris Bishop Mark Van Doren Edwin Honig Howard Nemerov Dudley Fitts Robert Lowell Abbie Huston Evans Louis Untermeyer Elizabeth Coatsworth L.E. Sissman Allen Grossman Stanley Kunitz Constance Carrier Charles Edward Eaton Barbara Howes X.J. Kennedy Robert Penn Warren Robert Fitzgerald Maxine Kumin J.V. Cunningham John Updike William Jay Smith Peter Viereck James Merrill Galway Kinnell May Swenson Philip Levine John Hollander Derek Walcott Donald Hall
W.S. Merwin Marge Piercy Adrienne Rich Seamus Heaney F.D. Reeve Frank Bidart Czeslaw Milosz Mary Oliver William Meredith Robert Creeley Robert Pinsky Sharon Olds Lawrence Ferlinghetti David Ferry Carolyn Forché Charles Simic Mark Strand Naomi Shihab Nye Stephen Sandy Jean Valentine Fanny Howe