Results of the National Book Award in the year 2001.
In this complete collection that tracks his 40-year career and its shifting concerns, Alan Dugan—winner of the National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize, and the Prix de Rome from the National Institute of Arts and Letters—adds to his legend with nearly three dozen new poems. Dugan spent World War II in the Army Air Corps, and several of his early poems are wry testaments to the somber business of modern warfare. Others plumb the depths of existential angst with bracing black humor and brio.
Brutal Imagination is the work of a poet at the peak of his considerable powers. Its two central sections-which could be called song cycles-confront the same subject: the black man in America.
The first, which carries the book’s title, deals with the vision of the black man in white imagination. Narrated largely by the black kidnapper that Susan Smith invented to cover up the killing of her two sons, the cycle displays all of Mr. Eady’s range: his deft wit, inventiveness, and skillfully targeted anger, and the way in which he combines the subtle with the charged, street idiom with elegant inversions, harsh images with the sweetly ordinary.
The second cycle, “Running Man,” presents poems Mr. Eady drew on for his libretto for the music-drama of the same name, which was a l999 Pulitzer Prize finalist. Here, the focus is the black family and the barriers of color, class, and caste that tear it apart. As the Village Voice said, “It is a hymn to all the sons this country has stolen from her African- American families.”
In his previous collection, The Country Without a Post Office, Agha Shahid Ali excavated the devastation wrought upon Kashmir, his childhood home. Here he reveals a more personal devastation: his mother’s death and the journey with her body back to Kashmir. The result is a poetry of stunning formal inventiveness, infused with passion and grief.
In this series of new poems Gail Mazur takes stock-of the complexity of relationships between parents and children, the desires of the body as well as its frailties, the distinctions between memory and history, and the hope of art to capture these seemingly inscrutable realities. By turns mordant and passionate, narrative and meditative, Mazur’s poems imply that life, with all of its losses, triumphs, and abrasive intimacies, is far richer and more elaborately metaphorical than poetry can aspire to be-and yet her poems do affectingly recreate this reality. These illuminating poems are the work of an acclaimed poet at the top of her form.