Annal: 2012 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Poetry

Results of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in the year 2012.

Book:Poems 1962-2012

Poems 1962-2012

Louise Glück

It is the astonishment of Louise Glück’s poetry that it resists collection. With each successive book her drive to leave behind what came before has grown more fierce, the force of her gaze fixed on what has yet to be imagined. She invented a form to accommodate this need, the book-length sequence of poems, like a landscape seen from above, a novel with lacunae opening onto the unspeakable. The reiterated yet endlessly transfigured elements in this landscape—Persephone, a copper beech, a mother and father and sister, a garden, a husband and son, a horse, a dog, a field on fire, a mountain—persistently emerge and reappear with the dark energy of the inevitable, shot through with the bright aspect of things new-made.    

From the outset (“Come here / Come here, little one”), Gluck’s voice has addressed us with deceptive simplicity, the poems in lines so clear we “do not see the intervening fathoms.”  …[more]

Book:Aerial (Bin Ramke)

Aerial

Bin Ramke

Intensely compassionate and consoling, this collection of poetry revolves around the concept of death, offering an appreciation for nature and humanity. Playful alliterations take shape in the cloud-laden aspects of the first section and the dry realms of severe spirituality in the second. The implied narrative behind each verse has to do with family, but especially with loss of family members and how the connections they once formed live on for good or ill. Drawing from previous careers in mathematics and literary editing, Ramke’s resulting style is one that moves readily among scientific, religious, and literary discourse and discoveries. Sharply examining the connection between what is manufactured and what is fact, the result is a tumbling sort of movement through the shadowy areas of consciousness—leaving readers with the awareness that knowledge is adventure.

Book:Gravesend (Cole Swensen)

Gravesend

Cole Swensen

“Ghosts appear in place of whatever a given people will not face” (p. 65)

The poems in Gravesend explore ghosts as instances of collective grief and guilt, as cultural constructs evolved to elide or to absorb a given society’s actions, as well as, at times, to fill the gaps between such actions and the desires and intentions of its individual citizens. Tracing the changing nature of the ghostly in the western world from antiquity to today, the collection focuses particularly on the ghosts created by the European expansion of the 16th through 20th centuries, using the town of Gravesend, the seaport at the mouth of the Thames through which countless emigrants passed, as an emblem of theambiguous threshold between one life and another, in all the many meanings of that phrase.

Book:The Ground: Poems

The Ground: Poems

Rowan Ricardo Phillips

A masterful debut from a powerfully original poetic voice.

A poignant and terse vision of New York City unfolds in Rowan Ricardo Phillips’s debut book of poetry. A work of rare beauty and lyric grace, The Ground is an entire world, drawn and revealed through contemplation of the post-9/11 landscape. With musicality and precision of thought, Phillips’s poems limn the troubadour’s journey in an increasingly surreal modern world (“I plugged my poem into a manhole cover/That flamed into the first guitar”). The origin of mankind, the origin of the self, the self’s development in the sensuous world, and—in both a literal and figurative sense—the end of all things sing through Phillips’s supple and idiosyncratic poems. The poet’s subtle formal sophistication—somewhere between flair and restraint—and sense of lyric possibility bring together the hard glint of the contemporary world and the eroded permanence of the archaic…[more]

Book:Useless Landscape or A Guide for Boys

Useless Landscape: or A Guide for Boys: Poems

D.A. Powell

In D.A. Powell’s fifth book of poetry, the rollicking line he has made his signature becomes the taut, more discursive means to describing beauty, singing a dirge, directing an ironic smile, or questioning who in any given setting is the instructor and who is the pupil. This is a book that explores the darker side of divisions and developments, which shows how the interstitial spaces of boonies, backstage, bathhouse, or bar are locations of desire. With Powell’s witty banter, emotional resolve, and powerful lyricism, this collection demonstrates his exhilarating range.

I have this rearrangement to make:
symbolic death, my backward glance.
The way the past is a kind of future
leaning against the sporty hood.
—from “Bugcatching at Twilight”
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