Results of the National Book Award in the year 1999.
Collected here are poems from Ai’s four early books-Cruelty, Killing Floor, Sin, and Fate-along with seventeen new poems. Employing her trademark force, the new dramatic monologues continue to mine this award-winning poet’s fierce vision. In Ai’s world desire has no boundaries. Known as the foremost poet of urban terror, part African American, Asian American, and Native American, Ai takes the reader on a journey into the heart, torn from the bared chests of the living and sacrificed to the ravenous dead.
Poetry. African American studies. An outstanding selection including poems from eight previous volumes, as well as new work, from an important American writer. By turns humorous and serious, Major is always richly lyrical while remaining visual and precise in his observations. For the younger reader this poetry can work as a lesson in verbal and visual imagination: “There are no things rain is like. / Trees are like brick walls. But there are no things the walls themselves are like. / I’m like you. The contents of a book are like margarine. / The hard green surface of my car is like a forest fire.” (‘Word into Words Won’t Go”) In 1970 Clarence Major’s first collection, Swallow the Lake, won the National Council on the Arts Award and a year later his poetry was honored with a New York Cultural Foundation prize. He lives is Davis, California.
The centerpiece of this collection, “Elegy for My Sister,” is a sequence of poems on the suicide of the poet’s sister in which he gathers, piece by piece, the scattered fragments of his sister’s life. In other poems, Santos follows this elegiac theme into the broader contexts of myth and contemporary history to explore the ways each private loss is overlaid by those harrowing conditions by which our century defines itself.
Repair is body work in C. K. Williams’s sensual poems, but it is also an imaginative treatment of the consternations that interrupt life’s easy narrative. National Book Critics Circle Award-winner Williams keeps the self in repair despite love, death, social disorder, and the secrets that separate and join intimates. These forty poems experiment with form but maintain what Alan Williamson has heralded Williams for having so steadily developed from French influences: “the poetry of the sentence.”
Since, 1990, Louise Glück has been exploring a form that is, according to poet Robert Hass, her invention. Vita Nova—like its immediate predecessors, a book-length sequence—combines the ecstatic utterance of The Wild Iris with the worldly dramas elaborated in Meadowlands. Vita Nova is a book that exists in the long moment of spring, a book of deaths and beginnings, resignation and hope, brutal, luminous, and farseeing. Like late Yeats, Vita Nova dares large statement. By turns stern interlocutor and ardent novitiate, Glück compasses the essential human paradox, a terrifying act of perspective that brings into resolution the smallest human hope and the vast forces that shape and thwart it.