Annal: 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry

Results of the Pulitzer Prize in the year 2009.

Book:The Shadow of Sirius

The Shadow of Sirius

William S. Merwin

The nuanced mysteries of light, darkness, temporality, and eternity interweave throughout Merwin’s newest collection of poems. “I have only what I remember,” he admits, and his memories are focused and profound—well-cultivated loves, the distinct qualities of autumnal light, memories of Pennsylvania miners, a conversation with a boyhood teacher, and “our long evenings and astonishment.” From the universe’s chiaroscuro shadows, Merwin once again calls upon the language of surprise to illuminate existence. He is writing at the peak of his powers.

somewhere the Perseids are falling
toward us already at a speed that would
burn us alive if we could believe it
but in the stillness after the rain ends
nothing is to be heard but the drops falling
Book:Watching the Spring Festival

Watching the Spring Festival: Poems

Frank Bidart

This is Frank Bidart’s first book of lyrics—his first book not dominated by long poems. Narrative elaboration becomes speed and song. Less embattled than earlier work, less actively violent, these new poems have, by conceding time’s finalities and triumphs, acquired a dark radiance unlike anything seen before in Bidart’s long career.

Mortality—imminent, not theoretical—forces the self to question the relation between the actual life lived and what was once the promise of transformation. This plays out against a broad landscape. The book opens with Marilyn Monroe, followed by the glamour of the eighth-century Chinese imperial court (seen through the eyes of one of China’s greatest poets, Tu Fu). At the center of the book is an ambitious meditation on the Russian ballerina Ulanova, Giselle, and the nature of tragedy. All this gives new dimension and poignance to Bidart’s recurring preoccupation with the human need to leave behind some record or emblem,…[more]

Book:What Love Comes To

What Love Comes To: New and Selected Poems

Ruth Stone

What Love Comes To gathers nearly half a century of poems from a National Book Award-winning poet who, over the course of her career, has written in a wide range of voices and forms. Drawing from eleven previous volumes, this collection offers a trajectory through that career, presenting Ruth Stone from her early formal lyrics, through fierce feminist and political poems, to her most recent meditations on blindness and aging. Stone, at age ninety-two, returns often to the theme of loss in her work, all the while maintaining what the Vermont poet laureate nominations committee calls “a sense of survival surpassing poverty and grief…. Her poetry’s irrepressible humor and intellectual curiosity are unique among contemporary American poets.”

What Love Comes To is the perfect entry point into Stone’s world of serious laughter; of uncertainty and insight; of mystery and acceptance.

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