Judge’s Comments for Poetry

Winner:

Arthur Sze: The Ginkgo Light

“When you are still,” writes Arthur Sze in his stunning collection The Ginkgo Light, “you spot the chance tracks of the living.” These poems within this book are imbued with a stillness that captures both the mundane and miraculous, setting images of a startling beauty against the horrors of our contemporary condition:

 

Corpses push up through thawing permafrost

 

as I scrape salmon skin off a pan at the sink;

on the porch, motes in slanting yellow light

 

undulate in the air. Is Venus at dusk as luminous

as Venus at dawn?

 

Taking its title from a Ginkgo tree that survived the atomic blast at Hiroshima, this collection is a fitting testament to those moments of a life that survive to be remembered—what Sze so aptly calls—“the peripheral details that brighten like fireflies.”

 

First Runner-Up:

James Hoggard: Triangles of Light

The poems in James Hoggard’s collection take their titles from the works of the artist Edward Hopper and adopt the voice of the painter himself. On the surface each ekphrastic poem seems to serve as meditation on one of Hopper’s works. But in the accomplished hands of a poet such as Hoggard, each poem also becomes a place to contemplate what it means to make art and chose to live the artist’s life. Like a triangle of light stretching across the walls of the painter’s studio, each of these poems sharpens our vision and understanding of Hopper and his works.

 

Second Runner-Up:

Nancy Wood: We Became as Mountains: Poems of the Pueblo Conquest

Nancy Wood’s four-part collection, We Became as Mountains, offers an account of the Pueblo Indians from their creation myths to the mid-twentieth century. With an eye for the beauty as well as the haunting details of tragedy, Wood’s creates an important addition to the cannon of place-based lyric histories.

 

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