Poets Out Loud Winners
The Whole by Contemplation of a Single Bone
By Nancy K. Pearson
Selected by Elisabeth Frost, 2015 POL Editor's Prize
Not only one poem but the whole of Nancy K. Pearson’s breathtaking second book,The Whole By Contemplation of a Single Bone, presses the question “Do you understand the urgency?” Urgency hums through this collection like current through an electric fence. Another poem laments, “I wish I had stuck to the old story,” but these poems are too restless for that, insisting instead on singing the song that is “like two yellow eyes in a drainage ditch / where someone lonely feeds an alligator.”
—H. L. Hix
"Nancy Pearson’s The Whole by Contemplation of a Single Bone is so wondrous and happily strange that I had to take breaks in my reading of it to make sure that everything I thought I knew was still the way I remembered it. In language completely of her own making, Pearson looks deeply into the natural world, the animal world and the worlds of literature and popular culture in new and unsettling ways. This is, in the best way, a book about what it means to be surprised."
A Provisional Map of the Lost Continent
by Gregory Mahrer
Selected by John Yau, 2015 POL Prize.
With high-wire imagination and hybrid language, A Provisional Map of the Lost Continent surveys a world post-catastrophic, elasticized, semi-mythic yet founded in the real. Scribbling clerks, horse carts, and confectioners coincide with glass towers, climate-caused sea rise, and species extinction. In this book, makings and fracturings become part of one gesture. Gregory Mahrer’s continually burning city consumes, it seems, all futures, all lives, and the ember at the center of virtually every sentence is an irreversible, prophetic, and utterly accurate grief.
Let me say quite simply that Gregory Mahrer is the most dazzling poetic cartographer since Italo Calvino and Raymond Roussel, and Mahrer’s exquisite explorations of the imagination carry with them the same remarkable riches and glorious thirsts that we find in those great writers. Conceptually brilliant and relentlessly inventive, Greg Mahrer teaches us the many ways every map is made of language, and that geology, geography, and history must all be understood as deeply human psalms. In this astonishing new collection, there is only one direction left to the poet—beyond the page’s horizon.
—David St. John
On Generation & Corruption
By Terrence Chiusano
Selected by Elisabeth Frost, 2014 POL Editor's Prize
“‘Explorative,’ ‘meta-narrative,’ all such designations are too tame for describing the brainy and bold manner in which Terrence Chiusano’s On Generation & Corruption presides over the disruption of ‘the clinical completeness of the daily briefing, the dull dit-dot-dash of a poetry-making telegraph…’ Discursive, formally inventive, endlessly sharp-witted, and gorgeously written, [this] is one of the freshest and most unorthodox books (let alone first books) I have read in a very long time.”
—Lynn Emanuel, University of Pittsburgh
“Ten years ago I wrote of Mr. Chiusano that he is ‘almost frighteningly good,’ and here, in his first full-length book, the fear factor has only flowered. His is a world of familiar shapes rendered strange by unspeakable events offstage, a country where the intimate processes of nature and gender turn raw in late afternoon sun. Had he written only the luscious, Edward Goreyesque ‘Abecedary,’ his name would live forever in poetic history. And yet there is much more to On Generation & Corruption than its set-pieces. A compelling volume, rich with chills and fever.”
By Daneen Wardrop
Selected by Kimiko Hahn, 2014 POL Prize
“Daneen Wardrop has done deep research in the life and times and art of the U.S. Civil War and transformed it into exuberant and moving poetry. She speaks as women spies, soldiers and officers, kids exploring the ruins of Jefferson’s Monticello, a prostitute who keeps a flask tucked in her crinoline, Union musicians who find themselves playing ‘Lorena’ with Reb musicians, and so much more. Wardrop’s music makes you proud of the American language. Cyclorama is one of the most stunning books of poems I’ve seen in years. I can’t wait to see what Wardrop will do next.”
“When Wardrop touches her own psychological nerve she touches the reader’s nerve. Now see the finely-developed craft: the cadence of storm-clenched days, the diction of tumult and solitude, and a lyricism that holds all . . . Daneen Wardrop places the reader square in the center of her panoramic panels and bids us experience the scenes 360°. What a glorious way to enter these histories."
—Kimiko Hahn, from the foreword
By Peter Streckfus
Selected by Elisabeth Frost, 2013 POL Editor's Prize
"A hard won, fully realized, wonderfully eccentric book. Rather than the anxiety of influence, Peter Streckfus vows for a complex, loving embrace of influence. Written at the intersection of the words of father and son, through the echoing world of the father’s unpublished novel, Errings is an adventure—full of transport—in dream and in time. This is lovingly tender and smart work."
"In his two collections, Peter Streckfus has made a lyric poetry of the highest order: spacious, luminous, contemplative, filled with strange voyages and miniature epics—he is a seer, a visionary, and yet how effortless this work seems; at its center, a stillness as ardent and searching as anything within memory."
—American Academy of Arts and Letters citation for the Rome Prize in Literature
By Sara Michas-Martin
Selected by Susan Wheeler, 2013 POL Prize
"These poems are kaleidoscopic and pulsing; their living focus shows us that instability too has its elegance, that thought like music is in movement. This is a vibrant, beautifully synaptic book."
"What do I know about poetry? Brains are my business. Well, I know this: great poetry takes the brain by surprise (not merely the reflective self) knocking the neurons out of kilter, just a little, but enough to shock them into fresh patterns of perception, if only for an instant. Gray Matter is an extraordinary collection. I read it, neurons a-buzz, in a single, absorbed sitting. I’m not sure that’s what one is supposed to do with poems as rich, visceral and playfully profound as these. But what do I know about poetry?"
—Paul Broks, Neuropsychologist
The Revolver in the Hive
By Nicolas Hundley
Selected by Elisabeth Frost, 2012 POL Editor's Prize
"Nicolas Hundley's book, The Revolver in the Hive, is so full of surprises it applauds itself into an eerie silence. I love these poems. They are full of magic. One cannot paraphrase them. They are simply there, like a comet or a frog."
"In The Revolver in the Hive, Nicolas Hundley makes use of so much of what poetry has to offer us. Everything in the book is touched with poetry’s powers. Hundley loves poetry and he respects us, the best combination to find when one encounters a new book. It's alive in these pages; it's significantly additional."
Fannie+Freddie / The Sentimentality of Post-9-11 Pornography
By Amy Sara Carroll
Selected by Claudia Rankine, 2012 POL Prize
"What is Amy Sara Carroll’s Fannie + Freddie: The Sentimentality of Post-9-11 Pornography? It’s 'a dissident text' of 'home-grown, elemental earthiness' in which the domestic sphere responds to urgent global warnings. It’s a labor-intensive work of pregnant pauses in the passionate life of the artist occupying a female body. It’s una prosa poética of double-crossing borders dividing self and other, a legally admissible document of creative and critical testimonio. It’s a self-revealing artist’s book in which the vindictive family romance bubbles to the surface as a palimpsest of identity inscriptions. It’s a heartbreaking work of harrowing ingenuity."
—Harryette Mullen, University of California, Los Angeles
"A restrained genius: the kind that flares."
—Bhanu Kapil, Naropa University"
Amy Sara Carroll offers here an infrared snapshot of affective anachronism that lives the before-and-after of love and war in a poetic of the present flooded by history, memory, sensation, and relation. Wielding female complaint, maternal sentimentality, activist polemic, and auto-ethnographic documentation, its palimpsest feels out for form and refuses whatever is easy in its offerings. How can we live the unbearable in attachment to life amidst the force of the details that give and disturb its shape? The noisy beauty of the image that Carroll provides is powerful and sensational in the best of all senses."
—Lauren Berlant, University of Chicago
The Hello Delay
By Julie Choffel
Selected by Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, 2011 POL Prize
"This book works with one of those serious beautiful struggles – how to be someone to something, in a world where 'I' and 'thou' are so often nothing to no one, where 'pronouns are disasters.' We readers of poetry are 'uncertain animals,' and, lucky for us, Julie Choffel’s poems get caught up in the filmy place between our uncertainty and our animality. Her work has both the delicacy and the ungainly chaos of forms emerging from raw materials curiously moving toward thinghood, following their vowels toward meaning: 'the topical, psychotropic battle.'"
"Such lyric pressures attempt a sort of magical interface to force back an intrusive and alienating world. Her lines are organized by a willful and energetic intelligence."
"Story is partly her subject and partly her means, including story and back story, lyric extension, domestic proposal and spiritual fervor. Beautiful poems are passionate with a contained passion that tempers to the resonance of strong beauty."
Continuous Frieze Bordering Red
By Michelle Naka Pierce
Selected by Elisabeth Frost, 2011 POL Editor's Prize
Continuous Frieze Bordering Red documents the migratory patterns of an Other, as she travels between countries, languages, seasons, and shifting identities. A narrative on hybridity, the text explores [dis]location as a cultural swerve while it interrogates Rothko's red: his bricked-in, water-damaged windows [floating borders], which reflect unstable cultural borders to the hybrid.
"Interruptions mingle with saturations, private intensities with social commentary, lyric apercus with skeptical suspicion—this multi-track work by Michelle Naka Pierce correlates many streams of insight and produces elegant and self-assured results."
—Rachel Blau DuPlessis
"The work's innovative form unfolds in time and space, encouraging both horizontal and vertical reading, opening up a new space for hybridity that is "Not directionless: polyvectorial."
Things that No Longer Delight Me
By Leslie C. Chang
Selected by Cornelius Eady, 2009 POL Prize
"Chang explores her heritage, and she reimagines lives with devotion and loyalty." — Publishers Weekly
"It’s a beautifully lyric time machine."
— Cornelius Eady, University of Notre Dame
"In their mix of tenderness, delicacy of observation, their feel for textures, their refined and refining intelligence, all brought to bear by a robust sensibility that doesn't flinch in the face of the harder matters of absence, loss, and grief, the poems of Leslie Chang compose a complete, remembered, lived-in world"
— Eamon Grennan
By Amy Catanzano
Selected by Michael Palmer, 2008 POL Prize
*2010 PEN USA Literary Award Winner*
Multiversal, the second book by Amy Catanzano proposing a theory of quantum poetics, invites readers to explore the intersections between language, nature, science, and consciousness. Multiversal takes its name from the “multiverse,” a science fiction concept that has become an accepted theory in physics. It suggests that reality comprises multiple dimensions in space and time. In form and content, this collection takes novel approaches to the materiality of language itself, to the spacetime of poems.
“Amy Catanzano offers us a poetic vision of multiple orders and multiple forms, of a fluid time set loose from linearity and an open space that is motile and multidimensional.”
— Michael Palmer
“The mind/poetry of this book is wondrous, strange, a polyvalent stimulant. I didn’t think poetry could ever again be so beautiful. ‘Between the eye and its rock star fractal / Straight into the future!’”
— Anne Waldman
Corinna A-Maying the Apocalypse
By Darcie Dennigan
Selected by Alice Fulton, 2007 POL Prize
Corinna A-Maying the Apocalypse simultaneously celebrates and laments that “we are but decaying.” Betraying a love of old poems and symbols and new words and forms, these are poems where “the moon’s spritzing its perfumes and the phlegm is thick and fast” over cities and Starbucks and suburbs. The poet is in love with the rhythm of the man-made world, and “the rhythm is so strong sometimes / it blows up the room.”
"A powerfully original poet—one whose idiosyncratic power could not be learned or taught.”
— Alice Fulton
"With a love for the dance of syntax and a delight in the polyphony of dictions both high and low, Dennigan springs onto the contemporary poetry stage with a fresh original style. Her poetry is an exuberant celebration of language and insight."
— Mark Jarman, author of Epistles
By Karin Gottshall
Selected by Alberto Ríos, 2006 POL Prize
“These are lyrics that briefly and beautifully change our view of the world. In this effort, they do a quietly wild, beguilingly sudden work of making us rethink the ordinary before we can help ourselves, followed by the unnerving next part that hits us consequentially—we live in this world they are describing, though we had thought that we understood it perfectly well already. The best in these poems are their smallest moments, but once encountered, smallness means nothing but inspired surprise, as they have the power to alter us with unexpected ease. . . . The poems here, in sum, offer crisp language, language that speaks to new views, felt and therefore inherently worthy ways of reporting, all made forceful by strong and easy narrative guidance. The speaking of these poems throughout, even in their drama, is quiet, making everything that happens all the more unsettling as these ideas reach into us.”
By Jean Gallagher
Selected by Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, 2005 POL Prize
"These poems convey a metaphysical meaning as well as a bodily intimacy."— Publisher's Weekly
"This Minute is brilliant and surprising, full of history, invention, wit, humor, motion, stillness, time, no-time--and finally stands empty, like a desert father or mother, glad to 'give [her] inventions away.'"
"Here are poems , by Jean Gallagher, that knock me for a loop. They are work I didn't know I was waiting for - intoxicated, true to reality, blindly and rightly trustful of language. Her themes are springboards; they cause a language for ideas that dive into joy. Hers is language at its most dynamic, full of exuberant speculation. The poems speak out. The poems light us up. They are brilliant."
By Lee Robinson
Selected by Robert Wrigley, 2004 POL Prize
Hearsay celebrates a woman’s life from childhood to middle age, including the often-ignored subject of work, with a voice that is sometimes tender, sometimes whimsical, but always strong. The winner of the 2003 Poets Out Loud Prize, this collection “proffers craft and vision; it begins, one might say, in delight and ends in wisdom.”
—Robert Wrigley, judge
The Glazier's Country
By Janet Kaplan
Selected by Yvette Christiansë, 2003 POL Prize
“Among the leading poets of the newest generation of American writers.”
— Molly Peacock
The Glazier’s Country is a book of history and ethics. The poems follow the life of a survivor of Eastern European pogroms, but the theme is larger: notions of victimhood as an identity, moral certitude, and the differences between justice and revenge are questioned and explored. The poems’ formal qualities mirror the fractured lives of the people in them: seemingly disparate voices break in, words are scattered across the page. But the ultimate message of The Glazier’s Country is an insistence that we can choose wholeness, “choose good / solo & each day / over faith / over clan or country / it is an art / & each day again.”
Door to Door
By Robert Thomas
Selected by Yusef Komunyakaa, 2002 POL Prize
“This is a fresh, inventive, and moving book. The speaker here enters into a world, exploring, with an engaging openness and fullness of detail, a range of perspectives different from his own. At the same time, he acknowledges wishes the world can never fulfill, wishes he presents with a witty and exuberant loyalty. The dialogue that results is richly engaging.”
— Carl Dennis, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry
“The poems in this brilliant and urgent first collection traverse the territory between feverish delirium and remarkable sanity. In Door to Door, the lost voices of goddesses as well as salesmen are invoked, and Mozart stands comfortably beside Our Lady Of Baby Back Ribs; Emily Dickinson is called back from the dead and taken on a sight-seeing trip around San Francisco. Robert Thomas is a poet for the 21st century – witty, worried, and ecstatic – and this is a collection that will last.”
— Laura Kasischke, author of four books or poetry, including What It Wasn’t
By Julie Sheehan
Selected by Marie Ponsot, 2001 POL Prize
“Julie Sheehan’s poetry, at its best and most characteristic, exuberantly returns us to Walt Whitman (the real Whitman, and not the barbaric imitators) and to Walt’s grand parodist in Fernando Pessoa’s Alvaro de Capos.”
— Harold Bloom, Sterling Professor of Humanities, Yale University
“The book cover of ‘Thaw’ entices with what looks like the ice-encrusted coil if an old refrigerator touched with water droplets, and the poetry inside, with its eclectic mix of language and style, is just as enticing.”
— Sioux City IA Journal
By Jennifer Clarvoe
Selected by J. D. McClatchy, 2000 POL Prize
“The textures of Invisible Tender—the edgy shimmer of quartz, the cool vulnerability of silk—are exhilarating. Clarvoe’s canny perspectives, glistening details, and unnerving surprises are a constant delight. Her book places her at once in the starry company of poets like Elizabeth Bishop and May Swenson. I am moved and thrilled to know, here is the real thing, a poet.”
— J.D. McClatchy, Judge of the 1999 Poets Out Loud Prize