The Jackson Poetry Prize – Celebrating the First Five Winners
For someone who began his creative writing as a poet, I feel I’ve left that aspect of writing far behind – as it has me. I received this thin book some months ago – the result of a contest in 2011 held by Poets & Writers. The book holds between its hardbound covers a few works from each of five writers, and I’m going to try to give you my reflections on these five, eminently recognized poets – although I’m sure the poets who read this will find my views lacking. But at least I can do what I can do to recognize their achievements.
Elizabeth Alexander – What strikes me about her work is how the use of repetition can be used for emphasis and effect. Her varied subjects seem almost incantations by a poetic priestess.
Tony Hoagland – I found myself more open to his work that to the others; his dwells on depicting characters, describing scenes, and telling stories, all through a poetic sensibility.
Linda Gregg – her work is dense; it hold many thoughts, many sensibilities, something like the metaphysical poets of old, but in a modern voice and setting. More so than the first two, I think, I get a strong sense of the poet herself through these three poems.
Harryette Mullen – These prose poems, while for the most part in first person, reveal little about the poet in a confessional manner. Instead, her project here seems to be whimsy, irony, using these devices to critique modern life, but in a softer, gentler manner.
James Richardson – The prize was awarded to him for his sharply drawn juxtapositions of poems that tell us much about the complexities of the human experience, but in a lyrical, easily accessible, economic use of the poet’s gift.
As you can see, even from my fumbling attempts to assess these five’s works, the judges had the privilege of choosing from five distinctive voices and styles. I’m sure it was a most edifying and and enjoyable task.
I won’t attempt to rate these five beyond that of the judges – it wouldn’t be fair to these poets, nor to me.