Annal: 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry

Results of the Pulitzer Prize in the year 2003.

Book:Moy Sand and Gravel

Moy Sand and Gravel: Poems

Paul Muldoon

Paul Muldoon’s ninth collection of poems, his first since Hay (1998), finds him working a rich vein that extends from the rivery, apple-heavy County Armagh of the 1950s, in which he was brought up, to suburban New Jersey, on the banks of a canal dug by Irish navvies, where he now lives. Grounded, glistening, as gritty as they are graceful, these poems seem capable of taking in almost anything, and anybody, be it a Tuareg glimpsed on the Irish border, Bessie Smith, Marilyn Monroe, Queen Elizabeth I, a hunted hare, William Tell, William Butler Yeats, Sitting Bull, Ted Hughes, an otter, a fox, Mr. and Mrs. Stanley Joscelyne, un unearthed pit pony, a loaf of bread, an outhouse, a killdeer, Oscar Wilde, or a flock of redknots. At the heart of the book is an elegy for a miscarried child, and that elegiac tone predominates, particularly in the elegant remaking of Yeats’s “A Prayer for My Daughter” with which the book concludes, where a welter of traffic signs and slogans, along with the spirits of admen, hardware storekeepers, flimflammers, fixers, and other forebears, are borne along by a hurricane-swollen canal, and private grief coincides with some of the gravest matter of our age.

Book:Hazmat

Hazmat

J.D. McClatchy

HAZMAT, meaning “hazardous material,” is an abbreviation familiar from signs at the entrances to long dark tunnels or on the sides of suspicious containers. Here, in a series of stunning poems, J. D. McClatchy examines the first hazmat we all encounter: our own bodies. The virtuosic “Tattoos” meditates on why we decorate the body’s surface, while other poems plunge daringly inward, capturing the way in which everything that makes us human–desire and decay, need and curiosity, the jarring sense of loss and mortality–hovers in the flesh. In the midst of it all is the heart, its treacheries, its gnawing grievances, its boundless capacities.

With their stark titles (“Cancer,” “Feces,” “Jihad”), McClatchy’s poems work dazzling variations on this book’s theme: how we live with the fact that we will die. Crowned by the twenty-part sequence “Motets,” which deals out an…[more]

Book:Music Like Dirt

Music Like Dirt

Frank Bidart

In 2001, Bidart received the Wallace Stevens Award, given by the Academy of American Poets. The judges were Eavan Boland, Louise Glück, Wendy Lesser, James Longenbach, and Carl Phillips. Jury chair Louise Glück writes: “Since the publication, in 1973, of Golden State, Frank Bidart has patiently amassed as profound and original a body of work as any now being written in this country. He has given form for our age to what is most urgent and most private in the human soul: the ordeals of solitude and mortality and hunger and, recently, that action through which being speaks: the drive to make or create. Bidart’s poems sound like no one else’s; they look like no one else’s: to accommodate the requirement of his art, that the voice be precisely enacted in its every variation and hesitation, Bidart has made of his form a theatre: if the voice must be confined to the page, it will exploit that page, extend its possibilities.

His work has been, from the start, remarkable in its disdain for the soothing, the sentimental, the facile, the partial. He is, in the feeling of our jury, one of the great poets of our time.”

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