Results of the National Book Critics Circle Award in the year 2007.
Mary Jo Bang’s fifth collection, Elegy, chronicles the year following the death of her son. By weaving the particulars of her own loss into a tapestry that also contains the elements common to all losses, Bang creates something far larger than a mere lament. Continually in search of an adequate metaphor for the most profound and private grief, the poems in Elegy confront, in stark terms and with a resilient voice, how memory haunts the living and brings the dead back to life. Within these intimate and personal poems is a persistently urgent, and deeply touching, examination of grief itself.
Tom Pickards Ballad of Jamie Allan recounts the true adventures of an eighteenth-century gypsy musician who lived on the EnglishScottish Borders and died in Durham jail, serving a life sentence for stealing a horse. Though once patronized by dukes and earls, Allan lost their support as his wayward behavior began to exceed their own.
Drawing on newspaper accounts and court depositions, Pickard brings the ballad tradition of stark reportage to life with his own genius for the form. Through the words of his cohorts and contemporaries, Allan emerges as a spirit of the Borders, that wild and historically lawless region where rivers and fells set the stage for his captures and escapes.
Matthea Harvey’s Modern Life introduces a new voice that tries to exist in the gray area between good and evil, love and hate. In the central sequences, “The Future of Terror” and “The Terror of the Future,” Harvey imagines citizens and soldiers at the end of their wits at the impending end of the world. Her prose pieces and lyrics examine the divided, halved self in poems about centaurs, ship figureheads, and a robot boy. Throughout, Harvey’s signature wit and concision show us the double-sided nature of reality, of what we see and what we know.
From the earliest days of his poetic career, Tadeusz Rozewicz found a unique, pared-down style that consciously avoided metaphor and sought a new, painfully clear voice in which to express the horrors of wartime experiences. His work was immediately recognized as new and vital in Polish poetry, and he came to be regarded as one of the most important writers of his generation. New Poems is a collection of Rozewicz’s three latest volumes in their entirety: Recycling (1998), the professor’s penknife (2001), and the gray zone (2002).
Michael O’Brien’s Sleeping and Waking moves between states of consciousness and the phenomenal world, finding reciprocities among sleep, dreams, weather, and urban signs. His curiosity gets drawn to the edges of everyday life, rendering each local event with concision and exactitude. His poems offer what Ezra Pound calls “luminous details” in glimpsed gestures or overheard vernacular, full of the flaneur’s alert attention.