Year in Review 2009


year in review

Best New Book of Poetry

Versed, Rae Armantrout
Planisphere, John Ashbery
Take It, Joshua Beckman
The Dance of No Hard Feelings, Mark Bibbins
A Village Life, Louise Glück
The Last 4 Things, Kate Greenstreet
The MS of My Kin, Janet Holmes
Yeshiva Boys, David Lehman
The Book of Props, Wayne Miller
Chronic, D.A. Powell
Speak Low, Carl Phillips
Stranger, Laura Sims
Archicembalo, G.C. Waldrep
Sestets, Charles Wright
Museum of Accidents, Rachel Zucker

Best Translation

With Deer, Aase Berg (translation by Johannes Göransson)
If I Were Another, Mahmoud Darwish (translation Fady Joudah)
Before Saying Any of the Great Words, David Huerta (translation Mark Schafer)
World’s End, Pablo Neruda (translation William O’Daly)
Poems from the Book of Hours, Rainer-Maria Rilke (translation Babette Deutsch)

Best Selected/Collected

If I Were Another, Mahmoud Darwish
Selected Poems, Thom Gunn
Selected Poems, Geoffrey Hill
Selected Poems, Dara Wier
31 Poems, Dean Young

Best Anthology

Visiting Wallace: Poems Inspired by Wallace Stevens, editors Dennis Barone and James Finnegan
The Oxford Anthology of Latin American Poetry, editors Ernesto Livon Grosman and Cecilia Vicuña
The Best American Poetry 2009, editors David Lehman & David Wagoner
Poems from the Women’s Movement, editor Honor Moore
Essential Pleasures, editor Robert Pinsky

Best First Book

Perpetual Care, Katie Cappello
It is Daylight, Arda Collins
The End of the West, Michael Dickman
Rising, Farrah Field
The Certainty Dream, Kate Hall
Star in the Eye, James Shea

Best Second Book

The Dance of No Hard Feelings, Mark Bibbins
The Last 4 Things, Kate Greenstreet
Slaves to Do These Things, Amy King
The Book of Props, Wayne Miller
Stranger, Laura Sims

Best Book Cover

Never-Ending Birds, David Baker

baker cover




It is Daylight, Arda Collins

collins daylight cover




Selected Poems, Geoffrey Hill

hill cover




Reading Novalis in Montana, Melissa Kwasny






Scary, No Scary, Zachary Schomburg

schomburg scary cover





Best New Book by a Canonical Figure

Versed, Rae Armantrout
Planisphere: New Poems, John Ashbery
A Village Life, Louise Glück
Upgraded to Serious, Heather McHugh
Sestets, Charles Wright

Best Short Poem in a Collection

“Vehicles,” Rae Armantrout (from Versed)
“Dilemma,” Mark Bibbins (from The Dance of No Hard Feelings)
“Nude Asleep in the Tub,” Wayne Miller (from The Book of Props)
“cancer inside a little sea,” D.A. Powell (from Chronic)
“Future Tense,” Charles Wright (from Sestets)

Best Long Poem in a Collection

“The Devil You Don’t,” Mark Bibbins (from The Dance of No Hard Feelings)
“Yeshiva Boys,” David Lehman (from Yeshiva Boys)
“The Listeners,” Jennifer K. Sweeney (from How to Live on Bread and Music)
“Storm, lustral: unevensong,” Andrew Zawacki (from Petals of Zero Petals of One)
“More Accidents,” Rachel Zucker (from Museum of Accidents)

Book-length Poem/Sequence

Commuter, James Bellflower
Free Cell, Anselm Berrigan
I Have to Go Back to 1994 and Kill a Girl, Karyna McGlynn
Bluets, Maggie Nelson
The Mad Song, Michael Schiavo
Transcendental Studies, Keith Waldrop

Best First Poem in a Collection

“Bring Us a Souvenir from the Next War,” Mark Bibbins (from The Dance of No Hard Feelings)
“Trillium,” David Baker (from Never-Ending Birds)
“On Purpose,” David Lehman (from Yeshiva Boys)
“Who is Josquin des Prez?,” G.C. Waldrep (from Archicembalo)
“Turning and Running,” James Shea (from Star in the Eye)

Best Final Poem in a Collection

“The Devil You Don’t,” Mark Bibbins (from The Dance of No Hard Feelings)
“A Village Life,” Louise Glück (from A Village Life)
“The Under World,” Melissa Kwasny (from Reading Novalis in Montana)
“In the Poem He No Longer Lives In,” Wayne Miller (from The Book of Props)
“The Death of Everything Even New York City,” Rachel Zucker (from Museum of Accidents)

Best Opening Lines in a Collection

from “Alcove,” opener for John Ashbery’s Planisphere:

Is it possible that spring could be
once more approaching? We forget each time
what a mindless business it is, porous like sleep,
adrift on the horizon, refusing to take sides, “mugwump
of the final hour,” lest an agenda—horrors!—be imputed to it,
like a hold dug in sand. It’s breathy, though,
you have to say that for it.

from “ABC Plus E: Cosmic Aloneness is the Bride of Existence,” opener for Mary Jo Bang’s The Bride of E:

A pack of young flirts was patrolling the party,
They were cultural outsiders, consumed with … what?
Their own notion of beauty as reflected in the shine-more mirror
Of a man’s pants? Or nothing
But midnight and no one is counting.

from “Sleep Suite,” opener for Wayne Miller’s The Book of Props:

Light pressed to the tangle of birds
and branches and parked cars,

shop mannequins pinned
to the street (the street floating
like oil there in the glass—);

light striking the faces
of dogs and passersby, the leaves,
the radiator, the whitewashed sill;

light ringing them into existence…

from “Speak Low,” opener for Carl Phillips’s Speak Low:

The wind stirred—the water beneath it stirred accordingly…
The wind’s pattern was its own, and the water’s also. The
water in that sense was the wind’s reflection. The wind was,
to the water, what the water was to the light that fell there,
or appeared to fall, spilling as if the light were a liquid, or as
if the light and the water it spilled across
were now the same.

from “The Day I Lost My Déjà Vu,” opener for Rachel Zucker’s Museum of Accidents:

The box is like this today.
The box I live in.
Today: like this.

And though similar, so achingly alike,
ad infinitum, line over the nine, again,
it’s always
nothing like

nothing, not even the surprise
of another, so similar day of box living.

Best Closing Lines in a Collection

from “Fact,” closer for Rae Armantrout’s Versed:

The full force
of the will to live
is fixed
on the next

coming with a tray,

calling a number.


Each material
is a pose,

an answer
waiting to be chosen.

“Just so,” it says.

“Ask again!”

from “The Devil You Don’t,” closer for Mark Bibbins’s The Dance of No Hard Feelings:

                    Abominable fancy, slide us across
                                           the burning lawns.

            That which doesn’t kill us
                    is merely waiting;
                             it will.

Flattery will get you started, boy.

                     Hell is coming.

                     Hell is here.

from “A Village Life,” closer for Louise Glück’s A Village Life

In the window, the moon is hanging over the earth,
meaningless but full or messages.
It’s dead, it’s always been dead,
but it pretends to be something else,
burning like a star, and convincingly, so that you feel sometimes
it could actually make something grow on earth.

If there’s an image of the soul, I think that’s what it is.

I move through the dark as though it were natural to me,
as though I were already a factor in it.
Tranquil and still, the day dawns.
On market day, I go to the market with my lettuces.

from “We Are Great Songs,” closer for Amy King’s Slaves to Do These Things

…but turns out to be
the cost of plunging
every ounce of gold
that drove you
to the brink of security,
to toe beneath logs, speak
leviathan orbits, hold
out for missing persons,
sketching lines
that reckon the dead,
untying wrists
you know aren’t yours,
not in name or by word
but by the jugular
of an etched-over dream that
you bare them with,
by gibbous oceans &
opal tree lines, happy, in fact.

from “corydon & alexis, redux,” closer for D.A. Powell’s Chronic:

guess I figured to be done with desire, if I could write it out
dispense with any evidence, the way one burns a pile of twigs and brush

what was his name? I’d ask myself, that guy with the sideburns
and charming smile
the one I hoped that, as from a sip of hemlock, I’d expire with him on
my tongue

silly poet, silly man: thought I could master nature like a misguided
as if banishing love is a fix. as if the stars go out when we shut our sleepy

Best Chapbook

Spy Poem, Samuel Amadon
From Orange to Pink, Jordan Davis
Voir Dire, Justin Marks
Night-Sea, Rachel Moritz
Sent Forth to Die in a Happy City, Keith Newton
El P.E., Thibault Raoult

Best Physical Artifact

Take It, Joshua Beckman (Wave Books)
Poems from the Book of Hours, Rainer-Maria Rilke (New Directions)
Escape from Combray, Rick Snyder (Ugly Duckling Presse)
Selected Poems, Dara Wier (Wave Books)
31 Poems, Dean Young (Forklift, Ink)


Special thanks to this year’s reviewers for helping pull it all together: Hansa Bergwall, Graeme Bezanson, Jason Bredle, Stephen Burt, James Cihlar, Jackie Clark, John Deming, Caroline Depalma, DJ Dolack, Stephen Fellner, PJ Gallo, Joseph Goosey, Dustin Hellberg, Cindy Hochman, Steven Karl, Molly Sutton Kiefer, Daniel Magers, Rick Marlatt, Mike McDonough, Rachel Mennies, Ben Mirov, Cate Peebles, Jason Schneiderman, Matt Soucy, Bryan Stokes II, Daniel Story, Mathias Svalina, Ken L. Walker, Melinda Wilson