Courtesy Margaretta K. Mitchell

Fanny Howe—the author of numerous poetry collections, novels and essays, including In the Winter Sun: Notes on a Vocation (published by Graywolf in March)—has won the 2009 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. The $100,000 award praises Howe’s lifetime achievement as “an experimental writer who can break your heart. Live in her world for a while, and it can change the way you think of yours.”

Howe, ’62, reared her three children, including author Danzy Senna, ’92, during Boston’s turbulent school desegregation; and she often has written about race, culture and activism. Five of her novels about these times are collected in the volume Radical Love. She says Americans are still notoriously reluctant to talk about race. “The self-consciousness is so great—on some level we’re not allowed to speak.”