Results of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in the year 2004.
The poems of Pulitzer Prize-winner Richard Howard are noted for their unique dramatic force and for preserving, in their graceful, exquisitely wrought lines, human utterance at its most urbane. Here, in the first volume to draw together material from Howard’s twelve books of poems, readers can fully appreciate the erudite nuances of his lyric poetry and the superb human and historical bravura of his dramatic monologues and imagined conversations among famous figures. Inner Voices leaves no doubt as to why Howard has been “a powerful presence in American poetry for 40 years” (The New York Times Book Review).
In a recent double fiction issue, The New Yorker devoted the entire back page to a single poem, “The Clerk’s Tale,” by Spencer Reece. The poet who drew such unusual attention has a surprising background: for many years he has worked for Brooks Brothers, a fact that lends particular nuance to the title of his collection.
The Clerk’s Tale pays homage not only to Chaucer but to the clerks’ brotherhood of service in the mall, where “the light is bright and artificial, / yet not dissimilar to that found in a Gothic cathedral.” The fifty poems in The Clerk’s Tale are exquisitely restrained, shot through with a longing for permanence, from the quasi-monastic life of two salesmen at Brooks Brothers to the poignant lingering light of a Miami dusk to the weight of geography on an empty Minnesota farm. Louise Glück describes them as having “an effect I have never quite seen before, half cocktail party, half passion play…We do not expect virtuosity as the outward form of soul-making, nor do we associate generosity and humanity with such sophistication of means, such polished intelligence…Much life has gone into the making of this art, much patient craft.”
Keeping My Name bears the stamp of an assured poet whose work has long appeared in major journals and anthologies. Though Tufariello is known in New Formalist circles as one of the most accomplished younger poets working in meter and rhyme, her poems will appeal broadly to readers of contemporary poetry. With a distinctive blend of craft and deep feeling, clarity and subtle thought, Tufariello gives new resonance to the historical and mythic past by drawing larger significance and universal themes from contemporary life.
Keeping My Name reflects a particular interest in and compassion for the lives of women, past and present. Its five sections offer a variety of repasts. One brings women of the Old and New Testaments to life with freshness and immediacy. Another traces the dissolution of a marriage; a third, the experience—rarely represented in poetry—of infertility and its high-tech…[more]
The Optimist, Joshua Mehigan’s first full-length book of poems, was selected by poet James Cummins as the winner of the 2004 Hollis Summers Poetry Prize. It contains poems on an array of subjects, both ordinary and exceptional: the weather, a house fire, noise pollution, the inner life of a fourth-century ascetic. Whether narrative or lyric, dramatic or satirical, these poems explore universal themes such as death, desire, and change with a unique mixture of reason and compassion.
Richly allusive, the poems in Brigit Pegeen Kelly’s The Orchard evoke elements of myth in distinctive aural and rhythmic patterns. Her poetic strength lies in her ability to cast poems as modern myths and allegories. Propelled by patterned repetitions and lush cadences, the poems move the reader through a landscape where waking and dream consciousness fuse.