Annal: 2009 National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry

Results of the National Book Critics Circle Award in the year 2009.

Book:Versed

Versed

Rae Armantrout

Rae Armantrout has always organized her collections of poetry as though they were works in themselves. Versed brings two of these sequences together, offering readers an expanded view of the arc of her writing. The poems in the first section, Versed, play with vice and versa, the perversity of human consciousness. They flirt with error and delusion, skating on a thin ice that inevitably cracks: “Metaphor forms / a crust / beneath which / the crevasse of each experience.” Dark Matter, the second section, alludes to more than the unseen substance thought to make up the majority of mass in the universe. The invisible and unknowable are confronted directly as Armantrout’s experience with cancer marks these poems with a new austerity, shot through with her signature wit and stark unsentimental thinking. Together, the poems of Versed part us from our assumptions about reality, revealing the gaps and fissures in our emotional and linguistic constructs, showing us ourselves where we are most exposed.

Book:Captive Voices: New and Selected Poems

Captive Voices: New and Selected Poems, 1960–2008

Eleanor Ross Taylor

Over nearly fifty years, Eleanor Ross Taylor has established herself as one of the foremost southern poets of her generation. Captive Voices gathers selections from Taylor’s five previous books along with a generous helping of new poems. Scintillating, unusual, passionate, and profound, the poems range from contemporary pieces about a bag lady on a bus, to historical pieces about settlers held hostage and a wartime nurse caring for British wounded, to intensely personal poems about her dislike for her grandmother and worries about her son. The title poem—a real tour de force—explores the notion of captivity on several levels as it speaks to the suffering we all endure, some of which is of our own making. Decidedly regional yet determinedly universal, the poems in this remarkable volume, along with a foreword by Ellen Bryant Voigt, attest to the singular talent of a woman justly described as “a poet of genius.”

Book:Chronic: Poems

Chronic: Poems

D.A. Powell

The first poetry collection by D. A. Powell since his remarkable trilogy of Tea, Lunch, and Cocktails, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.

so many of the best days seem minor forms of nearness
that easily falls among the dropseed: a rind, a left-behind
—from “no picnic”

In these brilliant new poems from one of contemporary poetry’s most intriguing, singular voices, D. A. Powell strikes out for the farther territories of love and comes back from those fields with loss, with flowers faded, “blossom blast and dieback.” Chronic describes the flutter and cruelty of erotic encounter, temptation, and bitter heartsickness, but with Powell’s deep lyric beauty and his own brand of dark wit.

Book:Museum of Accidents

Museum of Accidents

Rachel Zucker

“Rachel Zucker may be Generation X’s likeliest heir to the confessional legacy of Sylvia Plath, Louise Glück, and Sharon Olds.”-The Believer

Rending the terrorizing forces of modern existence from abstraction and placing them directly in our laps, Museum of Accidents is a brutally honest epic of domestic proportions.

Rachel Zucker is the author of three collections of poetry and co-editor of Women Poets on Mentorship: Efforts and Affections. A graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, she currently lives in New York City with her husband and three sons, where she is a certified labor doula.

Book:A Village Life: Poems

A Village Life: Poems

Louise Glück

A Village Life, Louise Glück’s eleventh collection of poems, begins in the topography of a village, a Mediterranean world of no definite moment or place:

All the roads in the village unite at the fountain.
Avenue of Liberty, Avenue of the Acacia Trees—
The fountain rises at the center of the plaza;
on sunny days, rainbows in the piss of the cherub.
—from “tributaries”

Around the fountain are concentric circles of figures, organized by age and in degrees of distance: fields, a river, and,…[more]

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