The Believer Poetry Award
The winner will be announced in the next issue.
This year the Believer inaugurates the annual Believer Poetry Award. As with the Book Award, the editors will select five books of poetry from the past year that they thought were the finest, and the most deserving of greater recognition. The five finalists for the 2010 award are listed below. The winner, along with responses from January’s reader write-in survey, will appear in the May 2011 issue.
The Waste Land and Other Poems
by John Beer (Canarium Books)
John Beer’s audacious, at times brilliant first book includes a contemporary rewriting of the most famous poem of the twentieth century—T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land—along with several other of Eliot’s poems and Rilke’s sonnet sequence The Sonnets to Orpheus (now Sonnets to Morpheus). Beer’s work often involves an intriguing collapse of time, as when a woman “on a boozy date with her new bloke” mingles in the same poem alongside “counterterrorism technologies.”
by Michael Earl Craig (Wave Books)
Reality may be stranger than fiction, but Michael Earl Craig’s poems make a laudable effort to even the score. Quite possibly the funniest poet writing today, Craig’s unadorned poetry tends toward the deadpan and the offbeat, with an almost David Lynch–like sense of the uncanny (the Midwest version—Craig makes his living as a Montana-based farrier). “Mom always called me ‘enthusiastic’ / when I’d pull my underwear on too hard / and rip them to my chin.”
by Atsuro Riley (University of Chicago Press)
Set in the South Carolina Lowcountry, Atsuro Riley’s pitch-perfect debut collection is narrated by Romey, an imaginative, observant boy with Huck Finn-ish charm. Throughout these poems, Riley expertly melds sound with meaning. He also has a preternatural ability to evoke, with a few deft strokes, both phenomena—“bees thrive-gilding the glade”—and the materiality of things, as with “The eye-of-pine floorboards ticking, clicking, planking themselves cool.”
by Lisa Robertson (University of California Press)
Inspired by a passage from Rousseau (the R of R’s Boat), and drawing on jottings from more than sixty of her personal notebooks, Canadian poet Lisa Robertson has created a highly evocative work—a collection that’s at once mysterious and lucid, cerebral and sensual. Robertson’s poetry has always carried considerable philosophic weight, yet these poems have a spontaneity that feels almost carefree—often joyfully so.
Come On All You Ghosts
by Matthew Zapruder (Copper Canyon Press)
The friendly, often quietly stunning poems in this third collection from Matthew Zapruder are filled with cascading associations of thought, memory, inquiry, reverie, and rumination. Zapruder seems incapable of writing a boring—or even half-familiar—sentence. “Have I mentioned tonight / we shall both stand before the enormous spiral / of wrecking balls in a dress made of laughing glass?” There’s not a dull moment in this collection.
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