College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Faculty Member Chelsea Rathburn Wins 2020 Eric Hoffer Award for Poetry

Chelsea Rathburn

MACON – Mercer University College of Liberal Arts and Sciences faculty member Chelsea Rathburn was recently awarded the 2020 Eric Hoffer Book Award for Poetry for her collection Still Life with Mother and Knife, released by LSU Press in February 2019.

Rathburn, who serves as Georgia’s poet laureate, joined Mercer’s faculty last August as assistant professor of English and creative writing. She was recently named one of the 100 Most Influential Georgians for 2020 by Georgia Trend magazine.

“Chelsea Rathburn has been an amazing addition to the creative writing program in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Not only is she a talented poet, she is also an engaging and inspiring professor. We are so proud of her for this significant accomplishment,” said Dr. Anita Olson Gustafson, dean of the College.

The Eric Hoffer Book Awards, which honor the memory of American philosopher Eric Hoffer, are among the largest international book awards for small, academic and independent presses. The awards annually present a grand prize of $2,500 plus honors in 18 different categories, as well as additional prizes the Montaigne Medal, da Vinci Eye and First Horizon Award.

In addition to winning this year’s Hoffer Award for Poetry, Still Life with Mother and Knife was a finalist for the grand prize and for the Montaigne Medal, which recognizes the year’s most thought-provoking book.

“So much exciting literature, particularly poetry, is published by academic and independent presses, so it’s an incredible honor to win an Eric Hoffer Award,” said Rathburn. “It’s particularly meaningful to be recognized for a book that is deeply personal to me.”

Rathburn’s latest collection, also recognized among the New York Times “New & Noteworthy” books and Georgia Center for the Book “Books All Georgians Should Read,” explores the themes of anger and desire, relationship of self and other, and, especially, the relationship between a mother and her child.

Still Life with Mother and Knife is her third full-length poetry collection, following A Raft of Grief, which received the 2012 Autumn House Prize, and The Shifting Line, which won the 2005 Richard Wilbur Award.

Rathburn’s poems have appeared in the nation’s most highly regarded journals, including Poetry, The Atlantic Monthly, the New Republic, The Southern Review, New England Review and Ploughshares, among others.

She has received a National Endowment for the Arts poetry fellowship, the Squaw Valley Community of Writers Scholarship, the Father William Ralston Fellowship from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and the Walton Fellowship in Poetry from the University of Arkansas, among numerous awards and honors.

Rathburn earned her bachelor’s degree from Florida State University and Master of Fine Arts from the University of Arkansas.

Prior to coming to Mercer, she was on the faculty at Young Harris College and previously served as McEver Visiting Chair in Writing at Georgia Institute of Technology.

About the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Mercer University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences serves as the academic cornerstone of one of America’s oldest and most distinctive institutions of higher learning. The oldest and largest of Mercer’s 12 schools and colleges, it is a diverse and vibrant community, enrolling more than 1,900 students, dedicated to learning and service through the practice of intellectual curiosity, respectful dialog and responsible citizenry. The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences offers majors in more than 30 areas of study, including more than a dozen pre-professional academic tracks, with classes taught by an outstanding faculty of scholars. In 2015, Mercer was awarded a chapter of The Phi Beta Kappa Society, the nation’s most prestigious academic honor society that recognizes exceptional achievement in the arts and sciences. For more information, visit