In 2004, LSU Press established the L.E. Phillabaum Poetry Award to honor director emeritus Les Phillabaum and his commitment to poetry publishing.
“The award highlights the significance of poetry in our lives and celebrates its contribution to the creative world,” said LSU Press Director MaryKatherine Callaway.
During his 33 years at the press, 28 as director, Phillabaum published more than 200 poetry collections by more than 100 poets. Two received the Pulitzer Prize for poetry, and several won or were finalists for the National Book Award.
Robbie Phillabaum said of her late husband, “He loved poetry. He really did. The [poetry] series was important to him.”
Phillabaum passed away in 2009, but his legacy lives on through the books he brought to print and through this award.
“I’m very honored to receive the award,” said Kelly Cherry, the most recent L.E. Phillabaum Poetry Award recipient. “It’s very special to have Les’ name on my book.”
Robbie said the award has prestige, but that its significance to poets is primarily tied to their relationships with Les. She explained, “They all worked with him. They knew him. They knew how he encouraged them and valued what they did.”
Each season, Callaway and other members of the LSU Press staff review the newest poetry books and select who is to receive the $500 award.
Since Les’ death, Robbie has been the primary contributor to the award, ensuring his name lives on. “I wanted to make sure that what he did would not be forgotten,” she shared.
In reflecting on the meaning of this award honoring her husband, Robbie recalled a line of “Luke Baldwin’s Vow,” a Morley Callaghan short story, saying, “Sometimes, you absolutely must save the beautiful things from the practical people of the world.”
Published in Cornerstone Summer and Fall 2013.