Exclusive: The National Book Awards Longlist for Poetry

The National Book Awards longlist for poetry features acknowledged masters like Frank Bidart and the long-awaited follow-up to Mary Szybist’s debut.

The National Book Foundation announced Tuesday the 2013 longlist for poetry, nominating acknowledged masters like Frank Bidart, Lucie Brock-Broido, and Brenda Hillman; dynamic newcomers like Matt Rasmussen, and the decade-in-the-making follow-up to Mary Szybist’s debut, National Book Critics Circle Award finalist Granted.

The National Book Awards is running longlists for its four categories for the first in the prize’s history, and they are being announced exclusively on The Daily Beast this week. The longlist for young people’s literature was revealed at 9 a.m. on Monday, September 16; nonfiction will be announced at 9 a.m. on September 18; and, finally, fiction on September 19.

Metaphysical Dog

by Frank Bidart

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Frank Bidart is known for his uncompromising originality, having made a splash decades ago with monologues told in the voice of a serial killer, an anorexic, and a suicidal patient. Over some 40 years Bidart has covered a lot of ground, but in Metaphysical Dog he renders himself a homeward bound animal and returns to the jagged explorations of his youth, looking back on himself and even revisiting Ellen West, the anorexic who made him famous. Bidart confesses that “Frank: wrote the early “Ellen West” poem during a suicidal depression after his mother’s death. Even though “by the time she died he had so thoroughly betrayed the ground of intimacy on which his life was founded he had no right to live,” he had to release words like hostages; his grief “must be lifted and placed elsewhere / must not remain in the mind alone.” We are all better for it, since any new collection from the National Book Award–, National Book Critics Circle Award–, and Pulitzer Prize–nominated poet (for 1997’s Desire) and friend of the late Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Bishop is an event to commemorate.

· Review: The New York Times

· Review: Bookforum

· Review: Slate

· Bio: The Poetry Foundation

· Interview: The Atlantic

Bury My Clothes

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by Roger Bonair-Agard

Haymarket Books

Roger Bonair-Agard is a performance artist who won the individual competition at the National Poetry Slam in 1999 and a co-founder of the louderARTS Project, so you know that his poems are meant to be read aloud. Bury My Clothes is a collection of rhythmic musical meditations, and recollections of experiences about race, violence, and art.

· Excerpts from Google Books

Stay, Illusion

by Lucie Brock-Broido

Alfred A. Knopf.

Lucie Brock-Broido, the director of poetry at Columbia University’s School of the Arts, is one of the important “elliptical poets,” named by Stephen Burt, who seek to “undermine the coherence of the speaking selves.” Stay, Illusion is almost a manifesto to break free of the identification: “We have come to terms with our Self / Like a marmoset getting out of her Great Ape suit.” Brock-Broido has been honored with two National Endowment of the Arts fellowships and a Guggenheim fellowship.

· Review: Publishers Weekly

So Recently Rent a World, New and Selected Poems: 1968–2012

by Andrei Codrescu

Coffee House Press

One of the most prolific poets of our time selects a collection that represents some 40 years of composition. The Romanian-born Codrescu has released more than 35 books, founded the online journal Exquisite Corpse, won the 1995 Peabody Award for the film Road Scholar, and is a regular commentator on NPR’s All Things Considered.

· Interview: Bookslut

· Bio: The Poetry Foundation

· Profile: NPR

Seasonal Works With Letters on Fire

by Brenda Hillman

Wesleyan University Press

With simple language (mostly), sometimes employing found texts and documents, Brenda Hillman’s cut-off, combinatorial fragments fuse into something visionary, especially in her fourth and final series of explorations of the elements. Fire, the element of change, represents to her the energy of an age in which everything is traveling at the speed of light.

· Review: Publishers Weekly

· Review: The Rumpus

· Bio: The Poetry Foundation

· Interview: Poets & Writers

· Interview: Memorious

· Excerpt: Google Books

The Big Smoke

by Adrian Matejka

Penguin Group USA

I’m not sure why there aren’t more books on Jack Johnson, the first African-American heavyweight champion of the world, but Adrian Matejka has delivered an energetic, hard-hitting look at racism, sport, ambition, violence, sex, and other issues that dominated the life of the legendary prizefighter.

· Excerpt: Google Books

· Review: The Los Angeles Times

American Amnesiac

by Diane Raptosh

Etruscan Press

Diane Raptosh, who has published three previous books of poetry and teaches creative writing and literature at the College of Idaho, offers the long dramatic monologue of a John Doe, who struggles to live an ordinary life and is representative of the contemporary American experience.

· Interview: Idaho Statesman

Black Aperture

by Matt Rasmussen

Louisiana State University Press

The winner of the 2012 Walt Whitman Award, this debut collection sees Matt Rasmussen dealing with his brother’s suicide. In “Outgoing,” the narrator erases his brother’s answering machine message, which had been answering calls for the family all along. Rasmussen teaches literature and creative writing at Gustavus Adolphus College, and is the co-founder of the independent poetry press Birds.

· Bio: Poets.org

Transfer of Qualities

by Martha Ronk

Omnidawn Publishing

Henry James’s “The Sacred Fount” provides the title and inspiration for this collection of prose poems, creative nonfiction, and personal essays that explore shared spaces and our interdependence on one another. Ronk currently teaches at Occidental College.

· Bio: The Poetry Foundation

· Interview: West Coast Writers


by Mary Szybist

Graywolf Press

Mary Szybist’s first book, Granted, was a finalist for the 2003 National Book Critics Circle Award. A decade later, Incarnadine presents several poems that resemble the Annunciation, and others reimagine Mary as a maid who has to finish the dishes before God can immaculately conceive Jesus. Many of the poems are diagrams and puzzles that seek to look at love, womanhood, motherhood, and the longing for God in new ways.

· Review: Slate

· Review: The Rumpus

· Review: NPR

The judges:

Nikky Finney is the author of four books of poetry: Head Off & Split, winner of the 2011 National Book Award in poetry; The World Is Round; Rice; and On Wings Made of Gauze. She also authored Heartwood, a story collection for adult literacy students, and edited The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South. The Guy Davenport Endowed Professor in the Department of English at the University of Kentucky for 20 years, she has recently accepted a teaching position at the University of South Carolina in Columbia.

Ada Limón’s first collection of poetry, Lucky Wreck, was the winner of the 2005 Autumn House Poetry Prize. She is also the author of This Big Fake World, winner of the 2005 Pearl Poetry Prize, and Sharkmetaphs in the Rivers.

D.A. Powell won the 2013 National Book Critics Circle Award for his collection Useless Landscape: A Guide for Boys. He has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. He lives in San Francisco.

Jahan Ramazani is Edgar F. Shannon Professor at the University of Virginia. He co-edited The Norton Anthology of English Literature, The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, and The Norton Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Poetry. His books include A Transnational Poetics, winner of the Harry Levin Prize of the American Comparative Literature Association; and Poetry of Mourning: The Modern Elegy from Hardy to Heaney, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Craig Morgan Teicher is the author Brenda Is in the Room and Other Poems, which was chosen for the 2007 Colorado Prize for Poetry. His collection of short stories and fables, called Cradle Book, was published in 2010, and his most recent book, To Keep Love Blurry: Poems, was published in 2013. He is poetry reviews editor of Publishers Weekly.

The National Book Award finalists will be announced on October 16, and the winners will be named at a gala dinner and ceremony in New York on November 20. Visit The Daily Beast Wednesday for the nonfiction longlist.