Annal: 2005 National Book Award for Poetry

Results of the National Book Award in the year 2005.

Book:Migration

Migration: New & Selected Poems

William S. Merwin

A powerful case can be made for declaring W.S. Merwin the most influential American poet of the last half-century. Migration: New & Selected Poems is that case.

As an undergraduate at Princeton, Merwin was advised by John Berryman to “get down on your knees and pray to the muse every day.” Over the last 50 years, Merwin’s muse led him beyond the traditional verse of his early years to revolutionary open forms that engaged a vast array of influences and possibilities. As Adrienne Rich wrote of W.S. Merwin’s work, “I would be shamelessly jealous of this poetry, if I didn’t take so much from it into my own life.”

Migration is the distillation of a profound body of work. Drawing the best poems from his acclaimed 17 books, and including a selection of new poems, Migration is the definitive Merwin volume. It embodies his evolving poetic style, commitment to bearing witness, and artistic and political nerve. There is nothing quite like this in American poetry.

Book:Habitat

Habitat: New And Selected Poems, 1965-2005

Brendan Galvin

A master craftsman who seamlessly combines vision and contemplation, Brendan Galvin is considered among the most powerful naturalist poets today. Habitat, Galvin’s fourteenth poetry book, combines eighteen new works with lyric pieces from the past forty years—including two book-length narratives, Wampanoag Traveler and Saints in Their Ox-Hide Boat. In a voice of quiet authority leavened with humor, Galvin intimately conveys his landscapes, birds and animals, people, and weather. By elevating the commonplace to the crucial, he takes his readers very far from the familiar.

Habitat offers an opportunity to trace a remarkable poetic career. In their richly various shapes, colors, textures, and strategies, Galvin’s poems bear witness to matters both joyful and intractable.

Book:The Moment's Equation

The Moment's Equation

Vern Rutsala

The Moment’s Equation, winner of the 2003 Richard Snyder Publication Prize, is Vern Rutsala’s eleventh collection of poetry.

Book:Star Dust

Star Dust: Poems

Frank Bidart

In 2002, Frank Bidart published a sequence of poems, Music Like Dirt, the first chapbook ever to be a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. From the beginning, he had conceived this sequence as the opening movement in a larger structure—now, with Star Dust, finally complete.

Throughout his work, Bidart has been uniquely alert to the dramatic possibilities of violence; in this, and in his sense of theater, he resembles the great Jacobean dramatists. It is no accident that Webster’s plays echo in “The Third Hour of the Night,” the brilliant long poem that dominates the second half of Star Dust. Bidart locates in Benvenuto Cellini the speaker truest to his own vision. Who better to speak of the drive to create, not as reverie or pleasure or afterthought, but as task and burden, thwarted by the world? In its scale, sonorities, extraordinary leaps, and juxtapositions, “The Third Hour of the…[more]

Book:Where Shall I Wander

Where Shall I Wander: New Poems

John Ashbery

You meant more than life to me. I lived
through you not knowing, not knowing I
was living.
I learned that you called for me. I came to
where you were living, up a stair. There
was no one there.
No one to appreciate me. The legality of it
upset a chair. Many times to celebrate…[more]
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