Annal: 1997 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry

Results of the Pulitzer Prize in the year 1997.

Book:Alive Together

Alive Together: New and Selected Poems

Lisel Mueller

In a collection that represents over thirty-five years of her writing life, this distinguished poet explores a wide range of subjects, which include her cultural and family history and reflect her fascination with music and the discoveries offered by language. In fact, her book is a testament to the miraculous power of language to interpret and transform our world. It is a testament that invites readers to share her vision of experiences we all have in common: sorrow, tenderness, desire, the revelations of art, and mortality—“the hard, dry smack of death against the glass.” To this community Mueller presents moments after moment where the personal and public realms intersect, where lives ranging from her own to those of Mary Shelley and Anton Webern illuminate the ways in which history shapes our lives. In “Brendel Playing Schubert,” Mueller’s breathtaking linguistic virtuosity reminds us how music can transport us out of ourselves and into “the nowhere where the enchanted live”; in “Midwinter Notes,”…[more]

Book:The Figured Wheel

The Figured Wheel: New and Collected Poems, 1966-1996

Robert Pinsky

The Figured Wheel fully collects the first four books of poetry, as well as twenty-one new poems, by Robert Pinsky, the former U.S. Poet Laureate.

Critic Hugh Kenner, writing about Pinsky’s first volume, described this poet’s work as “nothing less than the recovery for language of a whole domain of mute and familiar experience.” Both the transformation of the familiar and the uttering of what has been hitherto mute or implicit in our culture continue to be central to Pinsky’s art. New poems like “Avenue” and “The City Elegies” envision the urban landscape’s mysterious epitome of human pain and imagination, forces that recur in “Ginza Samba,” an astonishing history of the saxophone, and “Impossible to Tell,” a jazz-like work that intertwines elegy with both the Japanese custom of linking-poems and the American tradition of ethnic jokes. A final section of translations includes Pinsky’s renderings of poems by Czeslaw Milosz, Paul Celan, and others, as well as the last canto of his award-winning version of the Inferno.

Book:The Willow Grove

The Willow Grove: Poems

Laurie Sheck

Laurie Sheck interweaves the contemporary with the mythic, creating a realm in which such things as radios, skyscrapers, expressways, and mannequins are at once familiar and strange; immediate, yet tinged with the light of distance and myth. It is a realm where faces on a television newscast disappear “into the undertow / of hunger for the next thing and the next,” and mannequins “stand in their angelic armor.”

Placed at intervals throughout these pages is a series of poems entitled “From The Book of Persephone,” poems that explore the underworld through a fractured contemporary lens, depicting it as a psychological landscape of isolation and desire.

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