“Poetry, whose material is language, is perhaps the most human and least worldly of the arts, the one in which the end product remains closest to the thought that inspired it.”
– Hannah Arendt
As our Summer Reading Series continues with a selection of poetry, we prefer not to linger too long by way of introduction. As A. E. Housman wrote, “Even when poetry has a meaning, as it usually has, it may be inadvisable to draw it out… Perfect understanding will sometimes almost extinguish pleasure.” We tend to agree. Better to let the poets speak for poetry and let the poems speak for themselves.
The following winners in the category of Poetry, and many others, can be found in the National Magazine Awards archive (magazine-awards.com/archive)
1. “Pa” and “Bq” by Matthew Holmes, Arc (2011 Gold winner in Poetry)
Though we do not always need perfect understanding before (or even after) the reading of a poem, an author’s insight into the creative process is often as delightful as the poem itself. Holmes offers a welcome hint or two in a thought-provoking introduction, followed by the award-winning pair of poems from his project, “The failing of purity”:
how water bends before letting your finger in, how
rain is coming (the flower says), how
rain is coming, how
luck falls, like salt thrown by a god, it falls not. [Read more]
2. “St. Anthony’s Fire” and “The Perfect Fatherhood” by Shane Neilson, The Fiddlehead, (2011 Silver winner in Poetry)
In these fluid configurations, Neilson muses about two profoundly manifest contemplations of the heart: the ironies inherent in god, and the mysteries of parenthood in its wondrous responsibility for another life.
Robbed of touch with peripheral neuropathies and the visible sores, the manna from heaven contaminated with Claviceps purpurea, whole civilizations monster-movied, disease being the measure of purity in a lost, misbegotten heaven… [Read more]
3. “Paradise, Later Years” by Marion Quednau, Malahat Review (2009 Gold winner in Poetry)
In this playful and insightful work, Quednau composes a rhythmic meditation on the nature of our relationship with nature and, ultimately, with ourselves:
I’ve taught them everything I know: that greed is largely forgivable grandstanding, and making a small ruckus is good, might still change the world, and thirst when it hits you, despite an abundance of water and wine for some, and nothing dripping down the spout for all the rest, is merely stoppered-up desire, and what makes humans so different from that lobster not going at all gently is that we can have what we want – scary thought. [Read more]
Read these stories and more at the National Magazine Awards archive: magazine-awards.com/archive.
Previous editions of our Summer Reading Series: Travel | Essays | Sports & Rec | Fiction | Personal Journalism