Results of the National Book Award in the year 1993.
In his first book of new poetry since Sumerian Vistas (1987), A. R. Ammons, one of America’s greatest living poets, uses an unlikely subject - garbage - as the occasion for a profound and often funny meditation on nature and mutability. Driving along I-95 in Florida the poet sights a smoldering mountain of the stuff and is moved to muse: “garbage has to be the poem of our time because / garbage is spiritual, believable enough to get our attention, getting in the way, piling up, stinking, turning brooks brownish and / creamy white: what else deflects us from the / errors of our illusionary ways…” Ammons proceeds to evoke with his unique blend of intellectual rigor and American sublimity the impersonal beauties of natural processes both microscopic and cosmic, including ruefully amusing observations on the vagaries of aging. He asks what place poetry and language might have in this vast system and finds startling correspondences: “our language is something to write home about; / but it is not the world: grooming…[more]
This is Donald Hall’s most advanced works extending his poetic reach even beyond his recent volumes, The One Day and Old and New Poems. Conflict dominates this book, and conflict unites it. Hall takes poetry as an instrument for revelation and discovery, whether in “Another Elegy,” a comic, pathetic portrait of a (fictional) contemporary poet, or in “Baseball,” in which a narrator called K.C. (swinging his bat from the Mudville of the poet’s desk) fantastically attempts to explain the all-American game to a long-dead German artist. “Baseball” occupies nine innings, each inning composed of nine stanzas, each stanza composed of nine lines, each line composed of nine syllables. The title series of poems, “The Museum of Clear Ideas,” imitates, but does not translate, the first book of the Odes of Horace. A cool, witty voice identifies itself as Horace Horsecollar, an old Walt Disney character; yet no sooner does one voice establish itself than another voice contradicts it. By such means…[more]
One of the most highly praised and touching collections of poems to appear in recent years. In selecting it for the National Poetry Series, Philip Levine said: “The courage of this book is that it looks away from nothing: the miracle is that wherever it looks it finds poetry… Mark Doty is a maker of big, risky, fearless poems in which ordinary human experience becomes music.”
Margaret Gibson is a writer who extends the scope of poetry beyond its accustomed boundaries. Her previous work has ranged from lyric celebrations of the natural world to poems that speak out against political injustice and violence. She can turn from a creative reimagining of the life of the photographer and revolutionary Tina Modotti in Mexico to write sensuous meditations influenced by Buddhist and Christian thought.
In her newest book, The Vigil, Gibson adroitly interweaves the voices of four women, mothers and daughters of three generations, who, during the course of a single day, reveal the depths of the legacy of alcoholism in their family. “There’s nothing wrong here: don’t tell anyone”—that has been the guiding principle of these women’s lives, enmeshed in patterns of silence and denial, secrecy and lies. But on this one day of startling revelations, the full extent of the family’s secrets,…[more]