Results of the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize in the year 2006.
Eleanor Lerman, whose last collection, The Mystery of Meteors (2001), was named by Library Journal as “Best of Poetry, 2001,” returns with a dazzling, funny, and seriously mature new book.
In Our Post-Soviet History Unfolds, Lerman boldly wrests contemporary mysticism from a hard-knock New York Jewish consciousness. She’s a solid witness to the 1960s, Cold War, Vietnam, sexual revolution, and drugs. However, in her favor, she’s traveled through baby boomer irony, bought the T-shirt, and found her way back.
In her powerful fourth collection, Dorianne Laux once again strikes fire from neighborhood moments: a quiet street at dusk, a pool hall, a bare tree. Focusing on the grace of working people, she captures the pain and beauty of women in all their variety, caught in the “lunar pull” of our time.
“Laux writes gritty, tough, lyrical poems that depict the actual nature of life in the West today.” —Philip Levine
In his prize-winning debut collection, Ron Slate seeks out the intersections of art, technology, and humanity with intelligence, wit, and fervor. His unique voice is informed by his world travels as a business executive. As Robert Pinsky writes in his introduction, Slate “brings together the personal and the global in a way that is distinctive, subtle, defying expectations about what is political and what is personal.” In Slate’s words, “Is this the end of the world? / No just the end / of the language that describes it.”
Recently published in The New Yorker, Slate has been praised by James Longenbach for his ability to “make the known world seem wickedly strange—a poetry that is utterly of the moment, our moment, because it sounds like nobody else.”
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.
Trained as a musician and composer, Barter’s poems are driven by the rhythm and lyricism, punctuated with occasional dissonances that startle the reader with profound perceptions hidden within deceptively straightforward “melodies.” Whether exploring the misadventures of youth or the petty defeats of encroaching middle age, Barter evokes the bittersweet feeling of being “sad in the deep-sweet way/that gods are sad for all that will/never be.”