Sidney Lanier Prize

About the Sidney Lanier Prize

The Sidney Lanier Prize for Southern Literature, first awarded in 2012, is named for the 19th-century Southern poet born in Macon. Lanier wrote “The Song of the Chattahoochee” and “The Marshes of Glynn.” Using his name recognizes Middle Georgia’s literary heritage and long, often complicated, tradition of writing about the South. The prize is awarded to writers who have engaged and extended that tradition.

The selection committee for the Lanier Prize includes Mercer University professors, eminent scholars of Southern literature and members of the Macon community. In addition to Dr. David A. Davis, the committee includes:

  • Bob Brinkmeyer, Emily Brown Jefferies Professor of English at the University of South Carolina
  • Sharon Colley, Professor of English at Middle Georgia State College
  • Sarah Gardner, Distinguished University Professor of history at Mercer University
  • Trudier Harris, Distinguished Research Professor of English at the University of Alabama
  • Michael Kreyling, Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of English at Vanderbilt University
  • Barbara Ladd, professor of English at Emory University
  • Judson Mitcham, former Georgia Poet Laureate
  • Pam Thomasson, past president of Historic Macon Foundation

Dr. Joe Sam Robinson, Jr., a widely respected neurosurgeon, and his wife, Betsy, of Macon, made a gift to assist Mercer in meeting a National Endowment for the Humanities Challenge Grant during the 2016-17 reporting year. Their financial commitment created a new endowment, the Thomas McRae Hamilton Robinson Endowment, within the Center for Southern Studies that supports a public reading by the Sidney Lanier Prize winner at the annual presentation of the prize. The endowment honors the memory of their son Tommy Robinson and significantly enhances literary programming in Middle Georgia by underwriting the event.

Past winners

  • 2019 — Fred Chappell
  • 2018 — Natasha Trethewey
  • 2017 — Ellen Gilchrist
  • 2016 — Wendell Berry
  • 2015 — Yusef Komunyakaa
  • 2014 — Elizabeth Spencer
  • 2013 — Lee Smith
  • 2012 — Ernest Gaines

Sidney Lanier Creative Writing Scholarships

Mercer also awards the Sidney Lanier Creative Writing Scholarships. High school juniors with high aptitude for writing may compete for the scholarships, and winners will receive up to $2,000 per year toward the cost of tuition at Mercer. To be eligible, students must complete an application and submit either a work of short fiction of no more than 700 words or two poems totaling no more than 700 words. For more information, contact the Office of Admissions at admissions@mercer.edu.