Poetry Dateline 10/15/09: In 2009, 193 publishers submitted 1,129 books for the 2009 National Book Awards. The judges for poetry were Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, A. Van Jordan, Cole Swensen, and Kevin Young. The Winners will be announced on Wednesday, November 18. The Winner of the 2009 National Book Award for Poetry is . . .
Transcendental Studies: A Trilogy (University of California Press)
Keith Waldrop studied at Aix-Marseille and Michigan Universities, earning a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature in 1964. His first book of poetry, A Windmill Near Calvary (University of Michigan, 1968), was nominated for a National Book Award. He is the author of numerous collections of poetry, most recently Several Gravities (Siglio, 2009), a collection of collages; Transcendental Studies (UC Press, 2009), a trilogy of collage poems; and a translation of Charles Baudelaire's Paris Spleen (Wesleyan, 2009). About his work, the poet Michael Palmer has said, "As we would expect from Keith Waldrop, it is suffused with a particular humanity and an appreciation for the absurd, even the grotesque, in daily life. The rhythmic apposition of prose and poetry brings to mind the freedom, alertness and quality of distillation in Basho's classic travel sketches. With his quietly precise sense of modulation and his unerring gaze, Waldrop remains one of the vital and requisite, semi-secret presences in American letters." Waldrop has received an award from the Fund for Poetry, fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Berlin Artists Program of the DAAD. In 2000, he received a Medal from the French government with rank of Chevalier in the Order of Arts and Letters, for lifetime contribution to French literature. He currently lives in Providence, Rhode Island, where he teaches at Brown University, and has served as co-editor of Burning Deck Press, with his wife Rosmarie Waldrop since 1968.
RUNNER UP FINALISTS
Versed (Wesleyan University Press)
Rae Armantrout was holds a bachelor's degree from the University of California, Berkeley, where she studied with Denise Levertov, and a master's degree in creative writing from San Francisco State University. She has published ten books of poetry, including: Next Life, (Wesleyan, 2007), selected by the New York Times as one of the most notable books of 2007, and Up to Speed (2004), a finalist for the PEN USA Award in Poetry. Part of the first generation of Language poets on the West Coast, her work has been praised for syntax that borders on everyday speech while grappling with questions of deception and distortion in both language and consciousness. Armantrout's poetry has been widely anthologized, appearing in Language Poetries, (New Directions), In The American Tree, (National Poetry Foundation), Postmodern American Poetry (Norton), Poems for the Millennium, Vol. 2 (University of California), American Women Poets of the 21st Century (Wesleyan), and several editions of Best American Poetry. She is also the author of a prose memoir, True, which was published by Atelos in 1998. She has taught writing for almost twenty years at the University of California, San Diego.
Or to Begin Again (Viking Penguin)
After graduating from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Ann Lauterbach attended Columbia University on a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship. She moved to London before completing her M.A. in English Literature. Lauterbach is the author of several poetry collections, including Or to Begin Again (Penguin, 2009), which takes its name from a sixteen-poem elegy, and is inspired by both Lewis Carroll's Alice and T. S. Eliot's The Wasteland. She is the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the New York State Foundation for the Arts, the Ingram Merrill Foundation, and in 1995, she was awarded the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship. Lauterbach has taught at Brooklyn College, Columbia, Iowa, Princeton, and at the City College of New York and the CUNY Graduate Center. She is currently Schwab Professor of Languages and Literature at Bard College, where she has also been, since 1991, co-chair of writing in the Milton Avery School of the Arts. She is also a visiting core critic at the Yale Graduate School of the Arts.
Speak Low (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Carl Phillips is the author of numerous books of poetry, most recently Quiver of Arrows: Selected Poems 1986-2006 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2007) and Riding Westward (2006). His collection The Rest of Love (2004) won the Theodore Roethke Memorial Foundation Poetry Prize and the Thom Gunn Award for Gay Male Poetry, and was a finalist for the National Book Award. His work has been anthologized in The Vintage Book of Contemporary American Poetry (2003), edited by J. D. McClatchy, Poems, Poets, Poetry: An Introduction and Anthology (2002), edited by Helen Vendler, New Voices: University and College Prizes, 1989-1998 (2002), Gay and Lesbian Poetry in Our Time (1988). His poems have also been chosen eight times for the annual Best American Poetry series. Phillips is also the author of a book of prose, Coin of the Realm: Essays on the Art and Life of Poetry (2004), and the translator of Sophocles’s Philoctetes (2003). His honors include the 2006 Academy of American Poets Fellowship, an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Pushcart Prize, the Academy of American Poets Prize, induction into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the Library of Congress. According to the Judges' Citation for the 1998 National Book Awards, "Carl Phillips' passionate and lyrical poems read like prayers, with a prayer's hesitations, its desire to be utterly accurate, its occasional flowing outbursts." Phillips is Professor of English and of African and Afro-American Studies at Washington University in St. Louis, where he also teaches in the Creative Writing Program. He was elected an Academy Chancellor in 2006.
Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon
Open Interval (University of Pittsburgh Press)
Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon is assistant professor of English at Cornell University. She is the author of the poetry collection Black Swan, winner of the 2001 Cave Canem Poetry Prize, and coauthor, with Elizabeth Alexander, of the chapbook Poems in Conversation and a Conversation. Her poems have appeared in African American Review, Callaloo, Crab Orchard Review, Rattapallax, Shenandoah, and in several anthologies, including Bum Rush the Page and Role Call. Open interval is a mathematical term referring to a line that has no endpoints. Drawing upon intersections of astronomy and mathematics, history, literature, and lived experience, the poems in Open Interval locate the self in the interval between body and name. Like the Romare Bearden paintings she writes about in Open Interval, Van Clief-Stefanon’s work is colorful, sometimes playful, grounded in reality, yet other-worldly at the same time.
Note: The winner of the 2009 National Book Award for Poetry has been announced: CLICK HERE for the scoop from Chicago Poetry.