Here Come the Blurbies!

Blurby Slider ImageAnd now we honor the poetry books of 2012 and the blurbs that adorn them. Ladies and gentlemen, we give you the Blurby Awards!

 

BLURB OF THE YEARMother Was a Tragic Girl

 

“When I look out the window of my Winnebago I want to see a Sandra Simonds’ poem on the billboard before I crash. Bless her cranky pornboots.” — Cathy Wagner on Mother Was a Tragic Girl by Sandra Simonds (Cleveland State University Poetry Center)

 

MOST BLATANTLY REVEALING A DESIRE TO BE DOMINATED

 

“Like Alex in A Clockwork Orange, Grace appears to have his eyes taped open to witness ‘Puddles blitzed by blood fly hatch’ and the rest of nature’s bounty. The language pops and sizzles. Here the poet’s perennial project of attention is raised to the pitch of pain and is enjoyable (for the reader) nonetheless.” — Rae Armantrout on Sancta by Andrew Grace (Ahsahta)

 

MOST AMBITIOUS ADJECTIVE CLUSTER

 

“Every word counts in Donald Revell. You must read him carefully—not because he’s difficult but because he’s profound. But that’s too inappropriate, that word; let me say sun-worthy, Sophoclean, God-drenched. Let me say grave, trustworthy, loving, faithful, shocking, brilliant, honest. Let me say for dear life. One of America’s best poets.” — Gerald Stern on Tantivy by Donald Revell (Alice James Books)

 

BEST METAPHOR OF INTERIORSThe Branches, the Axe, the Missing

 

“This poetry is dangerous in the way that we’ve always suspected poetry might be: poetry as truth-teller, poetry as seductress…. Once you’ve entered the silken tent of Charlotte Pence’s poetry, you will want to stay inside the intelligence and beauty for a long time, to resist the ordinary.” — Marilyn Kallet on The Branches, the Axe, the Missing by Charlotte Pence (Black Lawrence Press)

 

MOST LIKELY TO INSPIRE HERMITTING

 

“The brilliance of these poems is how they renovate not only poetry but language, without pretense, without the declaration of war, without summoning the ghost of Shakespeare in any but the most charming ways. I could live in the mind of these poems and never want to leave.” — D. A. Powell on To Keep Love Blurry by Craig Morgan Teicher (BOA Editions)

 

MOST SUCCESSFULLY INDUCES CURIOSITY ABOUT THE CONTENTS OF THE BOOKlitanyforthecitybookstore

 

“In Litany for the City, Ryan Teitman conjures up a vast, shifting metropolis, one filled with strange, often harrowing, wonders. Simultaneously all cities and a place created as if from the imaginations and half-forgotten memories of those who observe it, it spreads glitteringly across our actual and interior landscapes.  Here, a child in a museum of curiosities sorts through drawers of increasingly bizarre ‘things swallowed.’ Later, a hawk, dipped in kerosene and aflame, flies across the night sky, or a songbird, escaped from a burning house, builds its nest in the shape of its cage. With these often chilling, lush poems, Ryan Teitman creates a dream-like world that is at once fantastic, strangely intimate, and deeply moving. It is one of the finest first books I’ve read in years.” — Kevin Prufer on Litany for the City by Ryan Teitman (BOA Editions)

 

BEST FOR THOSE UNWILLING TO LEARN POLISH

 

“We are fortunate to now have them in English so that we who don’t read Polish can now read these, and enjoy their insight and wry wit.” — Mary Jo Bang on The Folding Star and Other Poems by Jacek Gutorow, trans. Piotr Florczyk (BOA Editions)

 

BEST EXISTENTIAL CRISIS

 

“Burleson sees what we all see, or are willingly blind to, or cannot bear to see: that we are here for only a moment, that we are meaningless in the very same instant that we are nearly godlike with meaning.” — Zinta Aistars on Use by Derick Burleson (Calypso Editions)

 

MOST LIKELY TO INDUCE NUDITY

Still Some Cake

 

“Better than any American poet of his generation, Cummins, in a voice fierce, simple, and matter of fact, writes nakedly of men and violence, men and their fathers, men and their friends, men and the women and children they love. His command of formalism is still as impressive as it is unobtrusive, and with it he renders the self—that’s all of us—and our human longing to speak our truth nakedly and to be whole. I read this book, and am astonished and graced.” — Marilyn Krysl on Still Some Cake by James Cummins (Carnegie Mellon UP)

 

LEAST LIKELY TO SEEK PERSIMMONS

 

“If you want poetry to give you a persimmon on a plate, look elsewhere; if you want to know what happens when seven trees fall on the highway and the story is told by a stutterer, this is the book, and it could only have been written by Woodward.” — Mary Ruefle on Uncanny Valley by Jon Woodward (Cleveland State University Poetry Center)

 

BEST MUTATION

 

“This is a strange book: visionary and dark. It stutters out a kind of music: repeated phrases which accumulate errors and mutate as they go like chromosomes or, as Woodward puts it better, ‘visible fissile ribbons.’ It’s as if we were present for the moments of creation and extinction. Uncanny Valley is ominous and beautiful.” — Rae Armantrout on Uncanny Valley by Jon Woodward (Cleveland State University Poetry Center)

 

BEST DIAMOND IN THE DRECK

 

“S. E. Smith’s pilgrims, enormous sleeping women, swaggering put-downs and flirtations constitute a welcomed refuge from the lethargy of much contemporary poetry. Her dialectical shoes slant toward the pithy ocean” somehow combining the off-beat tilt of Emily Dickinson and the ruminating depths of Virginia Woolf. These poems are not simply turns of phrase, they are defiant twists—Mobius strips of syntax and declaration. They spirit the ingenuity and urgency of one who dwells in possibility; one who lives in a hut of palatial imagination and dares us to live there too. What a rambunctious, remarkable debut!” — Terrance Hayes on I Live in a Hut by S. E. Smith (Cleveland State University Poetry Center)

I Live in a Hut

 

WILDEST PARTY

 

“Fast, nimble, devilish, and not without a few scares, this is the book of a poet who insists on throwing a party in a burning house. Or rather hut. How lucky we’re invited.” — Dean Young on I Live in a Hut by S. E. Smith (Cleveland State University Poetry Center)

 

MOST ACCURATE DESCRIPTION OF HARTFORD, CT

 

“Mesmerizing as well as desperate, a wild-eyed tour of a lesser hell. Amadon claims these poems are almost entirely true – if so, God help him, the truth has been transformed into poetry.” — Nick Flynn on The Hartford Book by Sam Amadon (Cleveland State University Poetry Center)

 

LUMPIEST WINDOW

 

“Within the flickering bounds of an almost-still life, or a lumpy window, or perhaps more like a conversation with heat, Juliana Leslie’s Green is for World is rife with the finely-noised intimacy I might encounter in a room occupied by paintings that have been freed from the confines of light. The ship blinks, and I am moved, unpleated, to go long, wider into the unsettled edges of nature, busting up with the secret intentions of lemons, stones, and a humble circumference.” — Sawako Nakayasu on Green Is for World by Juliana Leslie (Coffee House Press)

 

GLINTIEST

 

“[These] accumulated poems [are] a smoldering tragedy, a heady descent, songs from a pit where what glints may be gems or the moon off snake scales.” — Douglas Kearney on Rough, and Savage by Sun Yung Shin (Coffee House Press)

 

MOST NAME-DROPPY

 

“With a nod to Louis Carroll, Shakespeare, Homer, Lorine Niedecker, Baudelaire and others, Marjorie Welish, in her excellent new book, In the Futurity Lounge, stages an elastic series of radical encounters. Sometimes paratactic, sometimes not, her virtuosic streaming image clusters and recursive internal rhyme — ‘e voc a tive’ — will blow you away.” — Norma Cole on In the Futurity Lounge by Marjorie Welish (Coffee House Press)

 

MOST GREMLIN-LIKE DESCRIPTION OF POEMS

 

“These inventions are for telling it like it is. In order to do this they variously prick your arm, burn down, protest, pretend, and dance, to name just a few.” — Rod Smith on Bright Brave Phenomena by Amanda Nadelberg (Coffee House Press)

 

BEST BUCKET OF CHICKEN GUTSHome Burial

 

“On the surface, a world of hospitals, casinos, convenience stores, toolsheds, banquet halls—all the lit squares of our civil selves. Below the surface, a murky realm, subconscious, magic, oracular, where blind hearts swim through an elemental darkness. And Michael McGriff is constantly letting his bucket down on a long long rope, to tug the darkness up into the light… a rope of words that finally seem well-chosen, but inevitable. Look, as an effete urban intellectual, I don’t know a bucket of chicken guts from a Buick’s engine block. But I know Real Poetry when I read it; and it’s richly seamed through every tunnel we can possibly mine through this book.” — Albert Goldbarth on Home Burial by Michael McGriff (Copper Canyon)

 

MOST UPSETTING TO DENTAL HYGIENISTS

 

“Has any other American poet been writing as beautifully and daringly over the past twenty-five years as Charles Wright? Possibly. But I cannot imagine who it would be … Wright has a hunk of the ineffable in his teeth and he won’t let go. In poem after poem he plumbs our deepest relationships with nature, time, love, death, creation.” — Philip Levine on Bye-and-Bye: Selected Late Poems by Charles Wright (Farrar Straus & Giroux)

 

BEST AFTERLIFE and BEST POSTHUMOUS BIRD RECORDINGSA Hotel Lobby at the Edge of the World

 

“In one of my best imagined afterlives, Adam Clay would be the only concierge in a hotel of infinite hallways where I’m the only guest. That afterlife now exists in the shade of words. He’s the Borges of the recursive space between the back of the porch and the edge of the sidewalk closest to the street, and he’s also Robert Penn Warren in search of a new Audubon, or a ghostly incarnation of Audubon, anywhere, even if in the throat of a snow blower. But this dark world comprised entirely of peripheries affords us no permanent saints, only the priesthood of listening. If the birds all die, Adam Clay will continue to record their songs.” — Matthew Henriksen on A Hotel Lobby at the Edge of the World by Adam Clay (Milkweed Editions)

 

BEST ABORTED AMERICAN DREAM

 

“With unflinching honesty, Becky has the unique ability to make this cast of debauched and indigent pool hustlers sympathetic without ever fishing for sentimentality. Cadillac Men is the poetic mosaic of an aborted American Dream, and like all good art, Becky brings to the forefront our collective humanity.” — Nathan Graziano on Cadillac Men by Rebecca Schumejda (NYQ Books)

 

SLIMMEST MONSTERChina Cowboy

 

China Cowboy is more hydra than hybrid, a slim monster sprouting new directions for form, narrative, culture, and identity. Meanwhile, everything it bites comes to vicious, gorgeous life.” — Christian TeBordo on China Cowboy by Kim Gek Lin Short (Tarpaulin Sky Press)

 

BEST CELEBRATION OF POETIC LUNACY

 

“There is a grisly ecstasy to conscious life that few poets have, or have ever had, the nerve to approach but which Tomaž Šalamun captures as casually as raindrops in a leaf cup. If not already apparent to his English-speaking audience, On the Tracks of Wild Game, a sort of psychedelic thriller cum opera of a collection, should firmly establish him as one of poetry’s all-time greatest lunatics.” — Laura Solomon on On the Tracks of Wild Game by Tomaž Šalamun, trans. Sonja Kravanja (Ugly Duckling Presse)