Results of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in the year 2003.
Anthony Hecht, now in his eightieth year, has earned a place alongside such poets as W. H. Auden, Robert Frost, and Elizabeth Bishop. Here under one cover are his three most recent collections—The Transparent Man, Flight Among the Tombs, and The Darkness and the Light. The perfect companion to his Collected Earlier Poems (continuously in print since 1990), this book brings the eloquent sound of Hecht’s music to bear on a wide variety of human dramas: from a young woman dying of leukemia to the tangled love affairs of A Midsummer Night’s Dream; from Death as the director of Hollywood films to the unexpected image of Marcel Proust as a figure skater.
He glides with a gaining confidence, inscribes
Tentative passages, thinks again, backtracks,…[more]
Celebrating the marriage of contraries in private poems of love. Departure explores intimacy and separation between mother and daughter, husband and wife, artist and muse, woman and demon lover. In a wide range of verse forms, it contemplates individual and communal mourning founded in scenes of violence the fury in Virgil’s Aeneid, the layers of conquest and desolation in Sicily, the trenches of World War I, the complexities of a contemporary American marriage. It is a book haunted, as well by dangerous gods. Poseidon the Farth-Shaker, ecstatic and destructive Aphrodite. Apollo. Dionysus. Ancient and modera eras, sacred and earthly forces, personal and societal despair are all held in the are of this exquisite collection by one of our finest poets.
In this jaunty and intimate collection, Kevin Young invents a language as shimmying and comic, as low-down and high-hearted, as the music from which he draws inspiration. With titles such as “Stride Piano,” “Gutbucket,” and “Can-Can,” these poems have the sharp completeness of vocalized songs and follow a classic blues trajectory: praising and professing undying devotion (“To watch you walk / cross the room in your black / corduroys is to see / civilization start”), only to end up lamenting the loss of love (“No use driving / like rain, past / where you at”). As Young conquers the sorrow left on his doorstep, the poems broaden to embrace not just the wisdom that comes with heartbreak but the bittersweet wonder of triumphing over adversity at all.
Sexy and tart, playfully blending an African American idiom with traditional lyric diction, Young’s voice is pure American: joyous in its individualism and singing of the self at its strongest.
In his fifth collection of verse, Henri Cole’s melodious lines are written in an open style that is both erotic and visionary. Few poets so thrillingly portray the physical world, or man’s creaturely self, or the cycling strain of desire and self-reproach. Few poets so movingly evoke the human quest of “a man alone,” trying “to say something true that has body, / because it is proof of his existence.” Middle Earth is a revelatory collection, the finest work yet from an author of poems that are “marvels—unbuttoned, riveting, dramatic—burned into being” (Tina Barr, Boston Review).
Charles Simic has been widely celebrated for his brilliant poetic imagery; his social, political, and moral alertness; his uncanny ability to make the ordinary extraordinary; and not least, a sardonic humor all his own. Gathering much of his material from the seemingly mundane minutia of contemporary American culture, Simic matches meditations on spiritual concerns and the weight of history with a nimble wit, shifting effortlessly to moments of clear vision and intense poetic revelation.
The poems in this collection—spanning two decades of his work—present a rich and varied survey of a remarkable lyrical journey.