San Francisco Architect John Marx Wins Prestigious Poetry Award

Marx Honored With 2021 James Gates Percival International Prize for Literature

(L-R) John Marx, AIA, with his book Études—The Poetry of Dreams + Other Fragments (Photo: Art Gray); Poem “Étude 30” and watercolor “Listless Daydream” from Études (Images courtesy ORO Editions).

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SAN FRANCISCO: John Marx, AIA, is the 2021 winner of the James Gates Percival International Prize for Literature for his book Études: The Poetry of Dreams + Other Fragments (ORO Editions, 2020). Chosen by the Galena International Poetry Festival’s committee of poets from around the world, the prestigious prize pays tribute to James Gates Percival, a founding father of American poetry.

“This is an unexpected honor,” says Marx, an award-winning architect, poet, and painter. “As an Illinois native, receiving this award from the Illinois-based Galena International Poetry Festival is especially gratifying.”

Études juxtaposes 84 of Marx’s watercolor paintings with 40 poems that complement the observational and existential qualities of the art. The paintings and poems are divided into eight distinct sections: moments in time, apertures, absent nature, objects in nature, without intention, approaching abstraction, deconstructing perception, and improvisations.

In the poem “Étude 48, 2005,” Marx writes: “In the cycle of change / we endure those extremes / each adding / a layer of humanity / to our journey,” and ends with the thought “Life asks only that we / live intensely / and in the moment”.

Poet, architecture critic, and Galena International Poetry Festival committee member Christian Narkiewicz-Laine comments, “John Marx is very much like Chicago architect Louis H. Sullivan, who is considered the father of modern architecture and who also wrote poetry. Marx’s poetry echoes the same sentiment of expression as Sullivan’s artistic vision—personified images either stolen from dreams or from nature—that so few architects can ever command or ever hopefully achieve.

“In Études, Marx’s poems are pared down to simple statements spread across the page with lines positioned horizontally, vertically, diagonally, and so on,” adds Narkiewicz-Laine. “The impact is strangely powerful in a way that only art and poetry can fully communicate.”

John Marx is scheduled to receive the Percival Prize for Literature this summer during the 2021 Galena International Poetry Festival (dates still to be determined). His book Études: The Poetry of Dreams + Other Fragments (ISBN: 978-1-943532-42-1) is hard bound, 160 pages, and available at

About John Marx John

Marx, AIA, is Co-Founding Design Principal and Chief Artistic Officer of Form4 Architecture, which believes architecture is the art of giving form to ideas. The firm specializes in creating poetically moving and conceptually thoughtful environments—whether for tech offices, mixed-use developments, or residences—that respond as equally to the topography of a site as they do to the people they serve. Form4 has won more than 175 awards globally, including the 2017 American Prize for Architecture. Marx is also the author of Wandering the Garden of Technology and Passion (Balcony Press, 2012) and The Absurdity of Beauty: Rebalancing the Modernist Narrative (The Architectural Review, 2018), as well as numerous articles and essays on emotional meaning in architecture. He received his Bachelor of Science in Architecture Studies with High Honors from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

About The Galena International Poetry Festival

Held each summer in the historic 19th-century city of Galena, Illinois, located on the Mississippi River, The Galena International Poetry Festival attracts world-renowned writers and literary figures. The Festival is traditionally a three-day event that includes the James Gates Percival International Prize for Literature presentation, an art exhibit at The Chicago Athenaeum Museum, poetry readings, and a poets’ dinner. The program pays tribute to James Gates Percival (1795-1856), considered by many to be the father of American poetry.

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