March 2012

The Believer Poetry Award

Editors’ Shortlist

The winner will be announced in the next issue.

This year heralds the second annual Believer Poetry Award. As with the Book Award, each year the editors of the Believer select five poetry collections from the past year that they thought were the finest and most deserving of greater recognition. The finalists for the 2011 award appear below. The winner, along with responses from last month’s reader write-in survey, will appear in the May 2012 issue.

The Trees The Trees

by Heather Christle (Octopus Books)

The Trees The Trees is Heather Christle’s follow-up volume to her popular debut, The Difficult Farm. She presents sixty prose poems—center-justified, and without punctuation—written with minimalist diction and bare-bones sentence structure. Flirtatiously surreal chronicles of the slippage and blur of personal identity, Christle’s poems are constructed from apparently simple—often apparently disconnected—sentiments and observations to create miniature, vibrating kaleidoscopes of language. This is post-disillusionment poetry (unsettling references to the natural world are everywhere)—the poems occurring as flashing afterimages searching for their source.

Late in the Antenna Fields

by Alan Gilbert (Futurepoem)

Brooklyn-based cultural critic and poet Alan Gilbert’s debut collection unveils a dystopian landscape of war, pollution, environmental destruction, and technological submergence—all intermingled via strands of tonally flat, loosely associative declarative sentences. These are pressurized poems, poems that enact a kind of cultural collision wherein “words bring the ghosts closer.” Gilbert’s real gift, though, may be his ability to make occasional lines such as “I used to be the person in my building / who dragged the trash curbside each week” seem surreal.

Space, in Chains

by Laura Kasischke (Copper Canyon Press)

Poet and novelist Laura Kasischke’s eighth collection reveals a fully dynamic world wherein all boundaries are overrun, all beliefs in stasis disabused—a world “full / of wingèd mania.” Kasischke’s poetry is built on an accumulation, both within and among poems, that frequently develops into a kind of ecstatic, unresolved crescendo. Kasischke’s is also a poetry of multiplicity—most centrally, of the multiplicities that animate, and often exceed, the self.

Invisible Strings

by Jim Moore (Graywolf Press)

In his seventh collection, Jim Moore writes with a Zen-like clarity poems about the natural world, relationships, memory, and the passage of time. These are sparse, clear-eyed poems from a man writing from the autumn years of his life—one foot firmly planted on earth, the other extended outward, toes cautiously tickling the unknown. In a late poem: “the black dog / on the wet sand chases the red ball / until the end of time.”

The Cold War

by Kathleen Ossip (Sarabande Books)

“But how is an individual built? On the theories of the past.” The poems of Kathleen Ossip’s stylistically wide-ranging second collection create their own context, manifest their own landscapes within which the dramas of language and identity unfold. The poet has an uncanny ability to convey what it actually feels like to be alive today, both as a personal “miniverse of feeling, sensation, causation,” and as a social, political, and historical being. Ossip is one of our foremost ethnographers of contemporary unreality.

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