Patricia Spears Jones

Forrest City native Patricia Spears Jones is soon to receive the Porter Fund’s Lifetime Achievement Award, a distinction handed out every five years to an Arkansas writer with a “substantial and recognized body of work.” Past recipients of the award, which comes with a $5,000 prize, include Donald Harington in 2004, Miller Williams in 2009, Charles Portis in 2014 and Jo McDougall in 2019, making Spears Jones the first person of color to be given the honor. 


“I am glad to have my work as a poet, playwright, anthologist, and cultural activist appreciated in my home state by The Porter Fund,” Spears Jones said in a press release. “What a gift to the state to have this focus on the literature of living writers especially when so much about reading, writing, and thinking is under assault by those who do not want us to read, write or think for ourselves.”

The author of five poetry collections — most recently 2023’s “The Beloved Community” and 2015’s “A Lucent Fire: New and Selected Poems” — Spears Jones won the Jackson Poetry Prize in 2017 and is currently the State Poet of New York, where she’s lived since the 1970s.


For a sample of her work, head to The New Yorker or the Academy of American Poets. I’m particularly fond of “Dancer,” which comprises just three stanzas:

The man with the black feather tattoo pares this space
Between fantasy and the memory of a man’s carved
Torso, designed for stroking and celebration.

Today the sun’s brightness is like that lover’s kiss,
Wonderful in the present and greater in memory.

A memory that brings me back to that black feather’s
Flutter. Stars dazzle in some other part of this world
Where the sun has set and the moon illuminates
Swans diving into voluminous waters.

An award ceremony for Spears Jones will be held on May 16 in the Great Hall at the Clinton Presidential Center. For more information and tickets, email Werner Trieschmann at


Founded in 1984, the Porter Fund also gives out an annual prize, which has been awarded to 40 poets, novelists, non-fiction writers and playwrights with a connection to Arkansas. A full list of previous winners can be found here.