Sunday, April 26, 2009

Big Book Awards

Winning his second Pulitzer Prize for a new collection, The Shadow of Sirius, poet W.S. Merwin said he was pleased and that the book was "a happy accident." He described it as having a first section about childhood and remembering childhood, “not from a distance, but from inside.” The middle section is a collection of elegies to dogs, and the final section is about later life. Publisher's Weekly called it his best book in a decade. So if you're a Merwin fan, place an order now.

Speaking of big poetry prizes, the National Book Award for poetry went to Mark Doty for Fire to Fire. Powell Books describes Doty's work as encompassing "both the plainspoken and the artfully wrought." Doty is one of the few major poets who blogs, posting beautifully wrought and accessible essays on the art and his life in it, is eminently readable and re-readable, universal in speech and subject. I think that speaks to his sense of equality in poetry. I find his poems compelling and deep-reaching, with a great chance of being work we'll be reading in hundreds of years. (For those of you who subscribe to the idea of reincarnation, you might enjoy the "we" in that sentence.)

I wonder how many big book award winning books will be around that long. Do we care? The poetry we love finds its way to us in some mysterious fashion, often through anthologies, the Internet, zines and litmags that themselves don't last long - just long enough. I always consider it fortuitous to discover a poet I really like, and can follow. And I really don't care for reviews, they help almost not at all in this quest. Nor do book awards, usually.