Annal: 2005 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Poetry

Results of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in the year 2005.

Book:Refusing Heaven

Refusing Heaven: Poems

Jack Gilbert

More than a decade after Jack Gilbert’s The Great Fires, this highly anticipated new collection shows the continued development of a poet who has remained fierce in his avoidance of the beaten path. In Refusing Heaven, Gilbert writes compellingly about the commingled passion, loneliness, and sometimes surprising happiness of a life spent in luminous understanding of his own blessings and shortcomings: “The days and nights wasted…Long hot afternoons / watching ants while the cicadas railed / in the Chinese elm about the brevity of life.” Time slows down in these poems, as Gilbert creates an aura of curiosity and wonder at the fact of existence itself.

Despite powerful intermittent griefs—over the women he has parted from or the one lost to cancer (an experience he captures with intimate precision)—Gilbert’s choice in this volume is to “refuse heaven.” He prefers this life, with its struggle and alienation and delight, to any paradise. His work is both a rebellious assertion of the call to clarity and a profound affirmation of the world in all its aspects. It braces the reader in its humanity and heart.

Book:The Cachoeira Tales and Other Poems

The Cachoeira Tales and Other Poems

Marilyn Nelson

Soaring images, rhythmic language, and wry humor come together in these three narrative poems that explore travel from an African American historical and social perspective. A cab ride turns into an amazing encounter with the driver, an amateur physicist whose ideas about space and time travel spark the poet’s musings on chutzpah and artistic ambition. A trip to Triolet, a Creole village in the Indian Ocean island nation of Mauritius, leads the poet to ponder the past and present as she reflects on the ironic complexities of the slave trade and its legacy shared by so many peoples. And in “The Cachoeira Tales,” longing to take her family on a journey to “some place sanctified by the Negro soul,” the poet finds herself in Brazil’s Bahia, along with a theater director, a jazz musician, a retired commercial pilot, an activist, a university student, and two mysterious African American women whom they meet along the way. In rhymed couplets, each pilgrim tells a story, and the result is a rollicking, sensual…[more]

Book:Luck Is Luck

Luck Is Luck: Poems

Lucia Perillo

From the snowy egret to a woman’s floating rib, nudism in America to Holy Communion, Simone de Beauvoir to Nathan’s hot dogs–the subjects in Lucia Perillo’s fourth collection of poetry lift off from surprising places and touch down on new ground. Hers is a vision like no other. In “To My Big Nose,” she muses: “hard to imagine what the world would have looked like / if not seen through your pink shadow. / You who are built from random parts / like a mythical creature—a gryphon or sphinx.”

Fearless, focused, ironic, irreverent, truly and deeply felt, the poems in Luck Is Luck draw upon the circumstances of being a woman, the harsh realities of nature, the comfort of familiar things, and universally recognizable anxieties about faith and grief, love and desire. In “Languedoc,” she writes, “Long ago / I might have been attracted by your tights and pantaloons / but now they just look silly, ditto for your instrument / that looks like a gourd with strings attached / (the problem…[more]

Book:Pennyweight Windows

Pennyweight Windows: New & Selected Poems

Donald Revell

For over 20 years, Donald Revell has used the pastoral as a tool of protest/revolution against violence and war and as a guide to peace, arguing for personal, natural and political growth in precise, delicate lyrics. Pennyweight Windows: New and Selected Poems includes a powerful new group of poems and much of the finest work from Revell’s eight previous collections. Strong political and antiwar themes make this collection highly relevant to today’s most important cultural and political debates.

I ran into the woods to find the red house.
But what is the use of a house without…
Book:Zeppo's First Wife

Zeppo's First Wife: New and Selected Poems

Gail Mazur

Widely acclaimed for expanding the stylistic boundaries of both the narrative and meditative lyric, Gail Mazur’s poetry crackles with verbal invention as she confronts the inevitable upheavals of a lived life. Zeppo’s First Wife, which includes excerpts from Mazur’s four previous books, as well as twenty-two new poems, is epitomized by the worldly longing of the title poem, with its searching poignancy and comic bravura. Mazur’s explorations of “this fallen world, this loony world” are deeply moving acts of empathy by a singular moral sensibility—evident from the earliest poem included here, the much-anthologized “Baseball,” a stunning bird’s-eye view of human foibles and passions. Clear-eyed, full of paradoxical griefs and appetites, her poems brave the most urgent subjects—from the fraught luscious Eden of the ballpark, to the fragility of our closest human ties, to the implications for America in a world where power and war are cataclysmic for the strong as well as the weak.

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