Results of the Griffin Poetry Prize in the year 2011.
Heavenly Questions, the first new collection of poems from Gjertrud Schnackenberg since her critically acclaimed The Throne of Labdacus, finds her at the height of her talents and showcases her continued growth as an artist. In six long poems, Schnackenberg’s rhyme-rich blank verse, with its densely packed images, shifts effortlessly between the lyric and the epic, setting passion to a verbal music that is recognizably her own.
An exceptional and moving new collection from one of the most talented American poets of our time, Heavenly Questions is a work of intellectual, aesthetic, and technical innovation—and, more than that, a deeply compassionate and strikingly personal work.
Born in Syria in 1930, Adonis is one of the most celebrated poets of the Arabic-speaking world. His poems have earned international acclaim, and his influence on Arabic literature has been likened to that of T. S. Eliot’s on English-language verse. This volume serves as the first comprehensive survey of Adonis’s work, allowing English readers to admire the arc of a remarkable literary career through the labors of the poet’s own handpicked translator, Khaled Mattawa.
Experimental in form and prophetic in tone, Adonis’s poetry sings exultantly of both the sweet promise of eros and the lingering problems of the self. Steeped in the anguish of exile and the uncertainty of existence, Adonis demonstrates the poet’s profound affection for Arabic and European lyrical traditions even as his poems work to destabilize those very aesthetic and moral sensibilities. This collection positions the work of Adonis within the pantheon of the great poets of exile, including César Vallejo, Joseph Brodsky, and Paul Celan, providing for English readers the most complete vision yet of the work of the man whom the cultural critic Edward Said called “today’s most daring and provocative Arab poet.”
An intriguing set of short, deceptively simple poems, “The Book of the Snow” meditates on our relation to the austere beauty and elemental power of the midwinter scene. It is also a subtle, witty, occasionally savage critique of our philosophical and artistic complacency. While pretending to literary defeatism, Francois Jacqmin captivates us with the deft touch of an accomplished poet. Philip Mosley’s beautifully modulated translation of the last collection to be published in the poet’s lifetime, only two years before his death in 1992, makes available to English-language readers for the first time the work of one of Belgium’s foremost francophone poets of the twentieth century.
Seamus Heaney’s new collection elicits continuities and solidarities, between husband and wife, child and parent, then and now, inside an intently remembered present—the stepping stones of the day, the weight and heft of what is passed from hand to hand, lifted and lowered. Human Chain also broaches larger questions of transmission, of lifelines to the inherited past. There are newly minted versions of anonymous early Irish lyrics, poems that stand at the crossroads of oral and written, and other “hermit songs” that weigh equally in their balance the craft of scribe and the poet’s early calling as scholar. A remarkable sequence entitled “Route 101” plots the descent into the underworld in the Aeneid against single moments in the arc of a life, from a 1950s childhood to the birth of a first grandchild. Other poems display a Virgilian pietas for the dead—friends, neighbors, family—that is yet wholly and movingly vernacular. …[more]