The Believer Poetry Award

Editors’ Shortlist

The winner will be announced in the next issue.

This year heralds the fourth annual Believer Poetry Award. As with the Believer Book Award, each year the editors of the Believer select five recent poetry collections they thought were the finest and most deserving of greater recognition. The finalists are listed below. The winner will appear in the May 2014 issue, along with responses from reader nominations gathered from subscribers and at believermag.com/awards2014

To Anacreon in Heaven and Other Poems
To Anacreon in Heaven and Other Poems by Graham Foust by Graham Foust (Flood Editions)
“There’s a violence in the mind like light,” writes Graham Foust in his often-brilliant, unnerving fifth volume. Foust’s poems, which stylistically exist somewhere between logical propositions and casual journal entries, slide and skitter on the surface of consciousness. Foust has been called a pointillist, but cubist might be a more apt designation: Anacreon is composed entirely of single-sentence verse paragraphs, the typically flat, declarative sentences forming the facets of a remarkable subjective reality.

It Becomes You
It Becomes You by Dobby Gibson by Dobby Gibson (Graywolf Press)
Dobby Gibson’s third collection finds the poet writing casually associative poems—poems of grace and invention—concerned with everyday life and the existential woes that tug underneath. There’s an appealing playfulness behind these often darkly meditative poems: “The trees rustle with plastic Walgreens bags // roosting during their circular parking lot migration patterns.” In Gibson’s hands the lyric form becomes enlivened. This is his most generous and assured volume to date.

I Will Never Be Beautiful Enough to Make Us Beautiful Together
I Will Never Be Beautiful Enough to Make Us Beautiful Together by Mira Gonzalez by Mira Gonzalez (Sorry House)
Partying, self-alienation, drugs, loneliness, hooking up, crying alone, the paradoxes of intimacy: this collection (a debut both for the author and her publisher, Brooklyn-based Sorry House) chronicles the life of twenty-year-old poet Mira Gonzalez with brutal honesty and minimalist vocabulary and diction. The genius here is to turn what could be criticized as depthless solipsism into an unflinching testament of sincerity. Gonzalez’s volume represents authentic reportage from a member of a generation that has never known life in a pre-Internet world.

Bough Down
Bough Down by Karen Green by Karen Green (Siglio Press)
Karen Green’s moving first book—a mixture of verse paragraphs, mixed-media collage, and eerily effective blank pages—charts Green’s tortuous path following the suicide of her husband in 2008. A chill numbness infuses many of these poems as Green describes the unpredictable movements of mourning: the awkward grief rituals, compulsive recollections of domestic intimacy, now-bewildering social interactions, and inexplicable sunbursts of levity and humor. Few books in recent memory pack as much raw emotional force.

The Forage House
The Forage House by Tess Taylor by Tess Taylor (Red Hen Press)
“She lived by gathering herbs / for curing leather, lived off land // her people held since they took it from the Cherokee,” writes Tess Taylor of one of her ancestors at the start of this expansive, impeccably wrought collection. Taylor’s debut is a morally complex work—an ambitious attempt to unearth and creatively re-construct her family’s history—and one that is ultimately as concerned with the act of reconstruction as with the reconstruction itself.

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