Results of the National Book Award in the year 2004.
Since the 1965 publication of her first book, Dream Barker, selected for the Yale Younger Poets Award, Jean Valentine has published eight collections of poetry to critical acclaim. Spare and intensely-felt, Valentine’s poems present experience as only imperfectly graspable. This volume gathers together all of Valentine’s published poems and includes a new collection, Door in the Mountain.
Valentine’s poetry is as recognizable as the slant truth of a dream. She is a brave, unshirking poet who speaks with fire on the great subjects—love, death, and the soul. Her images—strange, canny visions of the unknown self—clang with the authenticity of real experience. This is an urgent art that wants to heal what it touches, a poetry that wants to tell, intimately, the whole life.
This celebratory volume gives us the entire career of Donald Justice between two covers, including a rich handful of poems written since New and Selected Poems was published in 1995. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Justice has been hailed by his contemporary Anthony Hecht as “the supreme heir of Wallace Stevens.” In poems that embrace the past, its terrors and reconciliations, Justice has become our poet of living memory. The classic American melancholy in his titles calls forth the tenor of our collective passages: “Bus Stop,” “Men at Forty,” “Dance Lessons of the Thirties,” “The Small White Churches of the Small White Towns.” This master of classical form has found in the American scene, and in the American tongue, all those virtues of our literature and landscape sought by Emerson and Henry James. For half a century he has endeavored, with painterly vividness and plainspoken elegance, to make those local views part of the literary heritage from which he has so often taken solace, and inspiration. …[more]
Esteemed poet Cole Swensen’s ninth collection is haunted by vision and transfixed by light. Treating subjects from landscape to sculpture to a 19th century technical encyclopedia, the poet is fascinated with light, glass, mirrors, flame, ice, mercury-things transparent, evanescent, impossible to grasp. Likewise Swensen’s lyrics, which, with elliptical phrasing and play between visual and aural, change the act of seeing-and reading-offering glimpses of the spirit (or ghost) that enters a poem where the rational process breaks down.
In The Rest of Love, his seventh book, Carl Phillips examines the conflict between belief and disbelief, and our will to believe: Aren’t we always trying, Phillips asks, to contain or to stave off facing up to, even briefly, the hard truths we’re nevertheless attracted to? Phillips’s signature terse line and syntax enact this constant tension between abandon and control; following his impeccable interior logic, “passionately austere” (Rita Dove, The Washington Post Book World), Phillips plumbs the myths we make and return to in the name of desire—physical, emotional, and spiritual.