Well, the news of the week is that my clever sister Susan has won the Donald Justice Poetry Prize! (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donald_Justice_Poetry_Prize) She wins $1000 and gets her book published and gets to do a big reading at the annual poetry conference in West Chester PA. It’s tremendously exciting. I’m hoping to go to the conference for the first time, to bask in the reflected glory (and to learn something about poetry too).
The latest book I read was the collected works of Howard Nemerov: a former US Poet Laureate, Pulitzer prize winner etc; and the man for whom the biggest annual sonnet competition is named. I liked it, although as sometimes is the case with complete works, I could have done with less. I got a bit bored toward the end, particularly in his poet laureate phase. But I did like this stanza from his celebration of the 200th anniversary of Congress:
praise without end for the go-ahead zeal
of whoever it was invented the wheel;
but never a word for the poor soul’s sake
that thought ahead, and invented the brake.
Two more recent reads… Timothy Steele is one of the founder members of the Expansive Poetry movement I sort of belong to, so I was interested to read his first collection, Uncertainties and Rest. I particularly enjoyed his epigrams – I always like to see a mix of funny and serious poems in a book, and it’s especially brave in a first collection. The feel of New England was captured well in many of his serious poems. But like New England, they could be a bit cold and bleak for my taste. Still, I’d read more.
The other book was highlights of poems from a recent Forward Prize competition (2010?). This is probably the biggest annual British prize – I don’t think you submit to it, I think the winners are culled from books published. They name the poetry book of the year, best individual poems, and best first collection. I disliked most of it, which is a pretty good indication I will never win such a prize. Even so, it was good to be exposed to a lot of different well-regarded modern writers, and the occasional poem was striking. Afterwards I sought out a book by Derek Mahon, because one of his was my favourite of the lot. And then it turned out I had just been reading his poem ‘Antarctica’, which bears some similarity to my recent poem on Iceland.