Rhodes alumna Patricia Spears Jones ’73 has been named New York State Poet by the New York State Writers Institute. The award-winning and critically acclaimed poet will serve for two years in the honorary position and receive a $10,000 honorarium.
Jones has lived in New York City since the 1970s, where she has been a key figure in the city’s literary and theater scenes. Also a playwright and cultural commentator, she has devoted much of her time mentoring new generations of poets while teaching at colleges, libraries, and community organizations. In 2013, Jones received the Distinguished Alumni Award presented by Rhodes’ Black Student Association.
Jones is the author of five collections—The Beloved Community, published this year; A Lucent Fire: New and Selected Poems; Painkiller; Femme du Monde; and The Weather That Kills.
Her work has been featured in notable anthologies such as Best American Poetry, 2023 and African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle and Song.
Jones’ previous honors include a Robert Rauschenberg Residency, the Jackson Poetry Prize, and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Foundation for Contemporary Art, and the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund.
“I am thrilled to be the new ‘poet laureate’ for the state of New York, but I never forget my Southern roots and am so pleased to return to Rhodes to bring The Beloved Community to readers in Memphis and beyond,” said Jones. “I still can’t believe it’s 50 years, but I am grateful for all who are still with us and may we and older and young alums stay healthy in these challenging times.”
Jones received a bachelor’s degree in communication arts from Rhodes in 1973.
As part of the college’s 175th Anniversary Celebration, Jones will participate in the poetry reading and discussion “A History of Encouraging Creative Passion” at the college on Friday, Sept. 29. The event will be held 2:30-3:30 p.m. in Blount Auditorium of Buckman Hall.