Annal: 2003 National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry

Results of the National Book Critics Circle Award in the year 2003.

Book:Columbarium

Columbarium

Susan Stewart

In her long-awaited fourth book of poetry, Susan Stewart gives us a series of splendid, numinous poems about truths learned with the mind but set free through the senses. Modeled on the seventeenth-century practice of century forms, or books of one hundred pages, Columbarium expresses the bond between the living and the dead in voices of parent to child, lover to beloved, and mortal to the gods. The book arrives as a meditative gift from one of our most respected poet-critics.

Stewart frames her Columbarium with four poems paying homage to the elements—to their destructive and creative aspects and to their roles in the human and more than human worlds. Both nest and crypt, the book’s center holds an alphabet of “shadow georgics,” poems of instruction and doubt that link knowledge and the unconscious. Questions of mortality, of goodness and suffering, and of the fragility and power of memory animate these poems. In one poem an apple calls the narrator back from…[more]

Book:Blue Hour

Blue Hour: Poems

Carolyn Forché

Blue Hour is an elusive book, because it is ever in pursuit of what the German poet Novalis called ‘the [lost] presence beyond appearance.’ The longest poem, ‘On Earth,’ is a transcription of mind passing from life into death, in the form of an abecedary, modeled on ancient gnostic hymns. Other poems in the book, especially ‘Nocturne’ and ‘Blue Hour,’ are lyric recoveries of the act of remembering, though the objects of memory seem to us vivid and irretrievable, the rage to summon and cling at once fierce and distracted.

“The voice we hear in Blue Hour is a voice both very young and very old. It belongs to someone who has seen everything and who strives imperfectly, desperately, to be equal to what she has seen. The hunger to know is matched here by a desire to be new, totally without cynicism, open to the shocks of experience as if perpetually for the first time, though unillusioned, wise beyond any possible taint of a false or assumed innocence.”

— Robert Boyers

Book:Granted

Granted

Mary Szybist

Using natural, biblical, and classical imagery, these poems explore the difficulties of faith and love—particularly the difficulties of their expression, their performance. Moving between dramatic and interior monologue, and moving through intersecting histories, the ambiguities of inwardness and the eros of wakeful existence, these poems search for relationships with self, others, the world and God that are authentic—however quirky or strange.

In Tennessee I Found a Firefly
Flashing in the grass; the mouth of a spider clung
to the dark of it:…
Book:She Says: Bilingual Edition

She Says: Bilingual Edition

Vénus Khoury-Ghata, Marilyn Hacker

Translated by celebrated American poet Marilyn Hacker, Vénus Khoury-Ghata’s She Says explores the mythic and confessional attractions and repulsions of the French and Arabic imaginations with poems that open like “a suitcase filled with alphabets.” Sex, barrenness, grief, and death—the backdrop of a war-ravaged country—are always at the edges, made increasingly urgent by lines often jagged and spare, their music unhaltered. Khoury-Ghata is a vital voice in both her native and adopted languages and we are pleased to present this important collection in English.

Book:What Narcissism Means to Me

What Narcissism Means to Me: Poems

Tony Hoagland

An eagerly awaited new collection of poems by contemporary favorite Tony Hoagland, author of Donkey Gospel

How did I come to believe in a government called Tony Hoagland?
With an economy based on flattery and self-protection?
and a sewage system of selective forgetting?
and an extensive history of broken promises?
—from “Argentina”

In What Narcissism Means to Me, award-winning poet Tony Hoagland levels his particular brand of acute irony not only on the personal life, but also on some provinces of American culture. In playful narratives, lyrical outbursts, and overheard conversations, Hoagland cruises the milieu, exploring the spiritual vacancies of American satisfaction. With humor, rich tonal complexity, and aggressive moral intelligence, these poems bring pity to our folly and celebrate our resilience.

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