Results of the Griffin Poetry Prize in the year 2005.
Serbian by birth, brought up under Nazi occupation and transplanted to America in his teens, Charles Simic has had the opportunity to distill a highly particular vision of the world, in which comic gaiety goes hand in hand with the recognition of our darker spiritual and philosophical problems. Blending the real and the surreal, the urbane and the uncanny, Simic’s poems construct a neighbourhood of experience that is estranged yet recognisably at home with its surroundings. He notes what the eye sees and what the subsconscious has to say on the matter, in a poetry which is a triumph of the plain style.
This selection, made by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author himself from forty years of writing, is an outstanding overview of one of the wisest American poets.
Corpus—Michael Symmons Roberts’ ambitious and inventive fourth collection—centres around the body. Mystical, philosophical and erotic, the bodies in these poems move between different worlds—life and after-life, death and resurrection—encountering pathologists’ blades, geneticists’ maps and the wounds of love and war. Equally at ease with scripture (Jacob wrestling the Angel in “Choreography”) and science (“Mapping the Genome”), these poems are a thrilling blend of modern and ancient wisdom, a profound and lyrical exploration of the mysteries of the body:
So the martyrs took the lamb.
It tasted rich, steeped in essence
Of anchovy. They picked it clean…[more]
Matthew Rohrer’s simple, hilarious, generous and strangely disquieting poems conjure versions of the most familiar aspects of our lives-friendship, marriage, childhood, work-into which intrude incongruous, peculiar, fantastical, yet somehow totally recognizable elements. Over and over these poems leave us convinced that we’ve learned something very important and mysterious, yet we can’t say exactly what.
Fanny Howe’s bold new collection responds to the contrast between American imperialist goals and the realities of life lived “on the ground.” While our minds are preoccupied with the war games on television, we go on living among our ordinary joys and appetites. How can we live under these dissonant conditions and reconcile our existence with our longings?
My father was a soldier
who was smaller than my son
when he returned as a ghost.
I begged him to stay with us
but he said: “Not until you come to life.“