For a distinguished volume of original verse by an American author, Ten thousand dollars ($10,000).
Awarded to “Versed,” by Rae Armantrout (Wesleyan University Press), a book striking for its wit and linguistic inventiveness, offering poems that are often little thought-bombs detonating in the mind long after the first reading.
Also nominated as finalists in this category were “Tryst,” by Angie Estes (Oberlin College Press), a collection of poems remarkable for its variety of subjects, array of genres and nimble use of language; and “Inseminating the Elephant,” by Lucia Perillo (Copper Canyon Press), a collection of poems, often laced with humor, that examine popular culture, the limits of the human body and the tragicomic aspects of everyday experience.
By: Rae Armantrout
Rae Armantrout has always organized her collections of poetry as though they were works in themselves.
Versed brings two of these sequences together, offering readers an expanded view of the arc of her writing. The poems in the first section, Versed, play with vice and versa, the perversity of human consciousness. They flirt with error and delusion, skating on a thin ice that inevitably cracks: “Metaphor forms / a crust / beneath which / the crevasse of each experience.” Dark Matter, the second section, alludes to more than the unseen substance thought to make up the majority of mass in the universe. The invisible and unknowable are confronted directly as Armantrout’s experience with cancer marks these poems with a new austerity, shot through with her signature wit and stark unsentimental thinking. Together, the poems of Versed part us from our assumptions about reality, revealing the gaps and fissures in our emotional and linguistic constructs, showing us ourselves where we are most exposed.
Rae Armantrout is a professor of writing and literature at the University of California, San Diego, and the author of ten books of poetry. (foto – Nancy Wolfing)
Maureen N. McLane, associate professor of English, New York University (chair)Stephen Burt, associate professor of English, Harvard UniversityWesley McNair, poet and writer, Mercer, Maine