Karen Whalley’s second book is a compelling account of domestic fragmentation, isolation, and loss. At its core are twin wounds—the death of a father and the end of a marriage—and the struggle to define oneself in the ensuing absences. At the same time, these poems are teeming with lucid vitality and life, from the frail perfections of butterfly wings to the strangeness of an elk in traffic. Both quiet and profound, spiritual and searching, Whalley’s transcendent collection bravely questions the nature of self, and finds joy—a kind of answer—in the most unexpected of places.
In Perdido, Elaine Terranova’s seventh collection, the poet ponders the predicament of loss—“I want the dead but I am beside / the living.” But for Terranova, perdido does not mean loss merely. Like the music from which she borrows her term, these poems bound with resilience.
In this exquisite third book, Bert Stern grapples with the elemental and the extraordinary, looking back on the length of his journey and finding realms of possibility, powerful proof of a life well lived. Moments of divine recognition pervade these poems—their rough terrains, their changing atmospheres and stunning grace—culminating in a profound sense of gratitude for the tactile world. Here is a poet writing at the height of his powers.
Winner of the 2017 Off the Grid Prize
Jon Davis’s latest book of poems is bursting with signature inventiveness and the nimble lyricism that David Foster Wallace once praised as “off-the-charts terrific.” Like the characters of a new alphabet, Davis’s creatures form the language of this stunning collection. And from them emerge new meanings for words we only thought we knew—of plumage, of song, of nest.
Winner of the 2016 Off the Grid Prize
The poems in Cold Storage are revelations in the fullest sense, uncovering a world at once familiar and rendered new again in resplendent, transformative detail: a halo on the threshing floor, a drop of water on the skin, the nearing dark. Keith Althaus is a poet who walks by the shadow yet thrills with his illuminations, producing lanterns from yucca blossoms, a last breath, or “a plain hospital gown.” Here, light is what surrounds a painting or frames a closed door, saturating both the landscape and the interior of the self until “even darkness glows.”
With spare language and a painter’s eye, Althaus delivers poems that are intimate yet gorgeous, effortless yet intricate. This book marks the return of one of America’s pure voices in poetry—and we are grateful for the light he’s cast.
Winner of the 2015 Off the Grid Prize
Patricia Corbus’s starting point is home, where “in pearly clouds / called fog we sit / on unseen chairs / …We stay, we go.” When she goes, there are no limits to her flights, which, for example, may take her to “the vast loneliness of fledgling planets, / bitter-smelling rocks in empty rivers, / not decaying in patience like houses or bodies / slowly sinking—but firming, moons jockeying / like China juggled out of a cupboard.”
Corbus, as one of her titles puts it, is an escape artist, whose flights may also carry her to radical origins, as when she falls “into God before he thought / of dividing up, back when he rolled his tongue about himself like a marble or sheep’s eye, / before he raised a window in himself and looked out….”
Wit and driving force, newly minted metaphors, vocabulary forged in energy, and unflappable nerve make these poems something genuinely new. Finestra’s Window will be an energy source for generations to come.
Winner of the 2014 Off the Grid Prize
Dicko King calls this work “an ancestral chronicle,” but it’s bigger than that—something more like a species chronicle. King traces us out of the primordial ooze through our revolutions and migrations, and then, only finally, to his clan and family. This is poetry rising out of the blood and bones.
Winner of the 2013 Off the Grid Prize
This new poetry collection by Whitman Award winner Elaine Terranova is her sixth, and it is breathtaking. In pellucid language the poet walks through a kind of “vale of soul making” by re-visioning hours she spent as a child playing dolls with a friend. Terranova weaves her poetics of space by setting the fragile orders of the dollhouse against the realities of family fiction and the terror of a whole world outside where no shelter can be found—all this in exquisite, minimalist music.
Winner of the 2012 Off the Grid Prize, selected by Carl Dennis
Coyote Bush is a book that pays homage to the earth. It is a paean to
the stars and their constellations, the clouds and the wind, to the
horses, cows, deer, and dogs, all who blessedly live without language.
In these poems of place, Peter Nash traces and retraces his time-worn paths into the hills of Northern California. He is content at times just to watch the light change or lie down in the hollow a pregnant doe has made in the night. But these are also poems of refuge and discovery, poems of love, of suffering, relationships, childhood memories, sudden
enlightenment, sometimes back to back, sometimes rising to the surface when the reader is ready for them. Nash finds his place among the elements, firmly rooted between earth and sky.
Allen West’s new book of poetry, begins with his childhood in Beirut where he was born in 1930. The poems follow the trajectory of his return to the U.S. and his life through marriage, the death of his father and his wife, the return to Beirut in the 21st century. West’s roots in the Middle East are deep: his father was born in Beirut, his grandmother in Damascus.
All through this sensuous, graceful book West retains a childhood freshness. He treats life’s hardships with a light but serious touch, moving deftly from the dizziness of first love to the pathos of tending his dying wife.
There are many winged creatures in this book—ducks, bats, crows, moths, as well as kites, paper airplanes, and a hand-carved wooden propeller, “…our little helicopter threatening nothing.” Though West takes delight in what is airborne, he is also firmly planted on the earth. We see what the clean, arid landscape of Lebanon has given him and, reading these poems, we have the gift he has given us in return.
In her first full-length collection, Janet Winans brings an astute eye to two lives: urban beginnings in San Francisco and her present life in an Arizona hamlet, amidst thin populations, scattered tribes, and lost towns. What holds the two worlds in common is her way of finding habitats “between the cracks, / beyond the lines.” In both worlds, her chutzpah is a joy, whether as a child dashing down a beach in the knowledge that “No one was ever swifter nor / surer, no one more resolute”—or as a woman riding toward home down a familiar horse trail “over a staircase of roots,” she and the horse sometimes stopping to “lick drinks from shale / slick and gray as clay.”
Featured on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, and From the Fishouse.
In this poetry of the moral imagination, Lee Sharkey explores the psychic landscape of cruelty, violence, and war. Her lyric poems draw their imagery from Israel/Palestine, Somalia, the Balkans, Iraq, and small town USA, as well as from the intimate domains of sickness and birth. Sharkey responds to our endangered post-9/11 world with courage and clear-eyed tenderness. In a political climate that threatens sanity, she has composed a music of daring empathy.
Listen to Lee read from A Darker, Sweeter String on From the Fishouse.
The freshness of these poems flows from a passionate edginess, combined with a rich lyric range. Terry Adams is afraid of nothing. In the opening poem a father, whose dying mother didn’t kiss him because she thought she was contagious, can’t kiss his fourteen year old daughter because she is “too beautiful and vulnerable”:
The one not kissed thinks she is bad
or he is angry, feels for no reason
she is dying or he is dying
and won’t say.
It is like that with these poems: they visit great pain in its myriad forms, yet do so with redeeming compassion.
Adams’ long poems, like “Cincinnati River Aubade,” are ambitious, even epical, and open the kind of space with which the poet can “…become one of the dreams risen in the a black mist / on the flowing stealth of waking water, / ebbing outward from the reeds / hair-washing in the backwaters….”
In these poems Adams stakes his claim to be the new American Adam, and his bona fides is an eye and ear that perceive and shape with the double perception of innocence and experience. Reading Adams’ poems is like riding with him on his Harley, “footpeg scraping sparks from the concrete….”
2008 Maine Award for Poetry
Henry Braun’s final collection is a vibrant tribute to a life of quietude, simple beauties, and convictions that cut to the bone. All of which become poetry in Braun’s masterful hands.
For film clips of Henry reading his poetry and talking about his life, click here.