Year in Review 2008

2008 was quite a year. Merwin wrote his best book, and not too many seemed to notice; Katy Lederer was money, and a lot of people noticed; Gabbert and Rooney took “LOL” and girl talk to the level of high art, and our two most relevant Young poets (Dean and Kevin) reminded us that being prolific can be a very good thing. Throw in great new work from ready-made greats (Bidart, Graham, Howard) and some of the best first books money can buy (Cirelli, Dennigan, Dodds), and we can be reaffirmed that page poetry is still a living, breathing thing. Heck, we even elected a recovering poet President of the United States.

BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR: The Landscapist, Pierre Martory (trans. John Ashbery)

And the rest of the winners are…
 

Best Book of New Poetry Published in 2008
(Award for a book of all new poems; any selected/collected is ineligible, regardless of how many new poems are included in the collection)

Watching the Spring Festival, Frank Bidart
Lobster With Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Michael Cirelli
Corinna a-Maying the Apocalypse, Darcie Dennigan
That Tiny Insane Voluptuousness, Elisa Gabbert & Kathleen Rooney
Sea Change, Jorie Graham
Without Saying, Richard Howard
The Heaven-Sent Leaf, Katy Lederer
Rogue Hemlocks, Carl R. Martin
The Landscapist, Pierre Martory (trans. John Ashbery)
The Shadow of Sirius, W.S. Merwin
The Most of It, Mary Ruefle
Ours, Cole Swensen
The Ghost Soldiers, James Tate
Winter Journey, Tony Towle
Irresponsibility, Chris Vitiello
Primitive Mentor, Dean Young
Dear Darkness, Kevin Young

Best First Book

Lobster With Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Michael Cirelli
Corinna a-Maying the Apocalypse, Darcie Dennigan
Crabwise to the Hounds, Jeramy Dodds
19 Names for Our Band, Jibade-Khalil Huffman
Holy Land, Rauan Klassnik
Forms of Intercession, Jayne Pupek

Best Second Book

For Girls (& Others), Shanna Compton
cognitive behavioral therapy, Tao Lin
My Zorba, Danielle Pafunda
Irresponsibility, Chris Vitiello
Picture Palace, Stephanie Young

Best All-New Collection by a Canonical Figure

Watching the Spring Festival, Frank Bidart
Without Saying, Richard Howard
War Horses, Yusef Komunyakaa
The Shadow of Sirius, W.S. Merwin
The Ghost Soldiers, James Tate

Best Selected/Collected

Fire to Fire, Mark Doty
In Praise of the Unfinished, Julia Hartwig
Sleeping it Off in Rapid City, August Kleinzahler
My Vocabulary Did This To Me, Jack Spicer
What Love Comes To, Ruth Stone
 
Best Short Poem in a New Collection

“You Cannot Rest”, Frank Bidart (from Watching the Spring Festival)
“January in Paris”, Billy Collins (from Ballistics)
“Suffer”, Katy Lederer (from The Heaven-Sent Leaf)
“Long Live the Queen”, James Tate (from The Ghost Soldiers)
“Force of Rabbit,” Dean Young (from Primitive Mentor)

Best Long Poem in a New Collection
(Award for a new poem at least 5 pages in length)

“The Feeling of the World as a Bounded Whale is the Mystical”, Darcie Dennigan, from Corinna a-Maying the Apocalypse
“Interview with Medea”, Richard Howard, from Without Saying
“Autobiography of My Alter-Ego”, Yusef Komunyakaa, from War Horses
“Virtues of the Boring Husband”, Li-Young Lee, from Behind My Eyes
“Unscripted”, Lee Sharkey, from A Darker, Sweeter String

Best Book-Length Poem

Parse, Craig Dworkin
How to Build the Ghost in Your Attic, Peter Jay Shippy
Saga/Circus, Lyn Hejinian
Ours, Cole Swensen

Best Anthology

State of the Union: Fifty Political Poems, edited by Joshua Beckman and Matthew Zapruder
Black Dog, Black Night: Contemporary Vietnamese Poetry, edited by Nguyen Do and Paul Hoover
Lightning from the Depths: An Anthology of Albanian Poetry, edited by Robert Elsie and Janet Mathie-Heck
Poets on the Edge: An Anthology of Contemporary Hebrew Poetry, edited by Tsipi Keller
The Best American Erotic Poetry, edited by David Lehman

Best First Poem in a New Collection

“Marilyn Monroe”, Frank Bidart, from Watching the Spring Festival
“I Sense a Second Heart”, Darcie Dennigan, from Corinna a-Maying the Apocalypse
“Tritina Five”, Elisa Gabbert and Kathleen Rooney, from That Tiny Insane Voluptuousness
“Snow”, Mary Ruefle, from The Most of It
“Flash Flood Blues”, Kevin Young, from Dear Darkness

Best Final Poem in a New Collection

“To Whom it May Concern:”, Elisa Gabbert and Kathleen Rooney, from That Tiny Insane Voluptuousness
“No Long Way Round”, Jorie Graham, from Sea Change
“The War Next Door”, James Tate, from The Ghost Soldiers
“The Brown Boy Loves the White Man”, Ronaldo Wilson, from Narrative of the Life of the Brown Boy and the White Man
“Afterward”, Dean Young, from Primitive Mentor

Best Opening Lines

From “Marilyn Monroe”, opener for Frank Bidart’s Watching the Spring Festival:

 Because the pact beneath ordinary life (if you
 give me enough money, you can continue to fuck me—)

 induces in each person you have ever known
 panic and envy before the abyss…

 

From “There’s a child…”, opener for Rauan Klassnik’s Holy Land:

There’s a child in a ditch by the side of the road. She’s the source of every drop of blood. Shadows, knives, machetes—angels sharpening the horns of beasts you’ll never see…

From “The Heaven-Sent Leaf,” opener for Katy Lederer’s The Heaven-Sent Leaf:

 The speculation of contemporary life.
 The teeming green of utterance.

 To feel this clean,
 This dream-éclat.

 There is, in the heart, the hard-rendering profit.

From “Flash Flood”, opener for Kevin Young’s Dear Darkness:

I’m the African American
sheep of the family.

I got my master’s
degree in slavery.

Evacuee,
I seen the water

Ladder its way
above me. Swam

To the savings and loan–
no one home.

 

Best Closing Lines

From “Collector”, closer for Frank Bidart’s Watching the Spring Festival:

Tell yourself, again, The Rituals
you love imply that, repeating them,

you store seeds that promise

the end of ritual. You store
seeds. Tell yourself, again,

what you store are seeds.

From “To Whom it May Concern:”, closer for Elisa Gabbert and Kathleen Rooney’s That Tiny Insane Voluptuousness:

 Tiny hearts all over my c.v. led me
 to a lovely unemployment. I say:
 Let the kids do what they’re gonna—
 that’s the only way they’ll learn.
 I miss it already, all the kissing
 of my youth, the days of yore.
 Forget what I said before. This is
 all I’ve got. There isn’t any more.

From , closer for Tao Lin’s cognitive behavioral therapy:

alone in my room
i just drank an energy drink
i feel your head and face behind my face
does that mean we’re together?
then my eyes became rounder and more kitten-like
two perfect circles formed on my face–*CUTE* 

From “The War Next Door”, closer for James Tate’s The Ghost Soldiers:

  “…We’re just gaining our strength
 back,” one of them said. I shut the door and went back in the
 living room. I heard scratches at the window at first, but then
 they faded off. I heard a bugle in the distance, then the roar of
 a cannon. I still didn’t know which side I was on.

 

Best Book Cover

Corinna a-Maying the Apocalypse, Darcie Dennigan 

Dennigan--corinna
Sleeping it Off in Rapid City, August Kleinzahler

Kleinzahler cover 
The Collected Poems of Sylvia Plath (re-issue, replacing this abomination), Sylvia Plath

Plath collected cover
 

  

  
 

A Darker, Sweeter String, Lee Sharkey

Sharkey cover 

The Hive, Susan Stewart
Stewart cover

Worst Book Cover 

(see the worst book covers here)

Poetics, Aristotle
Leaping Poetry, Robert Bly
Silence Fell, Josephine Dickinson
Sea Change, Jorie Graham
The Odes of Horace, Horace
Zombie Haiku, Ryan Mecum
Bill, Bill Rector
Best “Thirteenth Poem”
(The artifact itself)

Notes from the Air, John Ashbery (new paperback edition, Ecco Press)
The Selected Poems of Hamster, Carlos Blackburn (Ugly Duckling Presse)
Fire to Fire, Mark Doty (hardcover edition, HarperCollins)
Simply Rocket, Matt Hart (Lame House Press)
Holy Land, Rauan Klassnik (Black Ocean)
Best Response to Coldfront
(Award for greatness in reacting to America’s favorite poetry review journal)

No competition this year:

“Bad Reviews: An Antidote”, Kathryn Stripling Byer
http://kathrynstriplingbyer.blogspot.com/2008/09/bad-reviews.html