Annal: 2004 National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry

Results of the National Book Critics Circle Award in the year 2004.

Book:The School Among the Ruins

The School Among the Ruins: Poems 2000-2004

Adrienne Rich

In this new collection Adrienne Rich confronts dislocations and upheavals in the United States at the beginning of the twenty-first century. The title poem, in a young schoolteacher’s voice, evokes the lessons that children (“Not of course here”) learn amid violence and hatred, “when the whole town flinches / blood on the undersole thickening to glass.” “Usonian Journals 2000” intercuts faces and conversations, building to a dystopic/utopic vision. Throughout these fierce and musical poems, Rich traces the imprint of a public crisis on individual experience: personal lives bent by collective realities, language itself held to account.

Book:Cocktails

Cocktails: Poems

D.A. Powell

kids everywhere are called to supper: it’s late
it’s dark and you’re all played out. you want to go home
no rule is left to this game. playmates scatter like
breaking glass
they return to smear the ______. and you’re it
—from “[you’d want to go to the reunion: see]”

In Cocktails, D. A. Powell closes his contemporary Divine Comedy with poems of sharp wit and graceful eloquence born of the AIDS pandemic. These poems, both harrowing and beautiful, strive toward redemption and light within the transformative and often conflicting worlds of the cocktail lounge, the cinema, and the Gospels.

Book:Danger on Peaks

Danger on Peaks: Poems

Gary Snyder

In his first collection of new poems since Axe Handles (1983), Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Gary Snyder shares 55 new poems and prose poems. As long-time readers will recognize, this collection is unique in Snyder’s oeuvre, finding the poet experimenting with a wide variety of styles, including an extended foray into the Japanese form haibun, “making it an American form,” as Snyder himself remarks. Some of the poet’s most personal work is contained in two sections of poems exploring “intimate immediate life, gossip and insight.”

Danger on Peaks begins with the poet’s first climb of Mount St. Helens on August 13, 1945, and his learning on the morning after his descent about the atomic bombs dropped on Japan. The poet visits Mount St. Helens again in 2000 to view the blast site of the 1980 eruption. Then follow poems for the Buddhas of Bamiyan Valley and the World Trade towers. More than a mere gathering of unrelated poems, Danger on Peaks is a constructed work, where every part contributes to the whole.

Book:Interglacial

Interglacial: New and Selected Poems & Aphorisms

James Richardson

This book gathers under one roof poems from all of Richardson’s earlier collections, a number of which are out of print: Reservations (1977), Second Guesses (1984), As If (1992), A Suite for Lucretians (1999), How Things Are (2000), and Vectors: Aphorisms & Ten-Second Essays (2001), as well as a large selection of new poems and aphorisms.

A distillation of three decades of work, Interglacial will introduce this poet to a new generation of readers. Richardson fans will be pleased to discover early poems long out of print, and to see this poet’s work in a larger, retrospective context.

Book:The Orchard

The Orchard

Brigit Pegeen Kelly

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.

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