T. S. Eliot Prize for Poetry

Winners and Finalists

2010 Winner: Dean Rader for

Works & Days

Finalists

Danielle Cadena Deulen, Lovely Asunder
David Lawrence, Since Hunter College
Peter Filkins, Constable's Clouds

Judge’s comments

On the road with epistemology and a company of poets and philosophers, Frog has his work cut out for him. Beginning with a funeral and ending with day's end, the poems in this ambitious collection seek—not conciliation, not reconciliation—but what you could call real locale in terms of the poetic tradition. Playing with the conventions that—depending upon your aesthetics—either free or bind us, Works & Days asks timely questions, never forgetting that Self too, is a fundamental part of the landscape. This is a serious book that never takes itself too seriously. It could be a primer for MFA programs everywhere.

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2009 Winner: David Moolten for

Primitive Mood

Finalists

Jennifer Quercus Boyden, The Mouths of Grazing Things
Alison Powell, I Am Your Tin Ship
Sharon Fain, Demeter in the Suburbs
Danielle Cadena Deulen, Dangerous Fruit

Judge’s comments

The collection makes a quick impact on the reader with an exceptional group of poems at the front of the book. I would say the first ten poems or so are knockouts, absolutely gorgeous and breath-taking, highly memorable. They are the first poems that give the reader a strong sense that the poet is in tune with his world, with the landscape of his/her imagination. Once again, the language is inviting, the titles thought-provoking. The poems on the page are powerful and substantial, extremely elegant in their column appearance. The poet’s view is exact, casting hope on so much immediate darkness of the world. Again, the poet is a capable one, luring the reader in with a reverie detail, image, and lush description. There is a strong preoccupation here on behalf of the damaged, the displaced, the hurt…and it works on the reader's psyche, rendering many of these poems quite memorable. Hauntingly beautiful, I would be brave enough to call this collection. Just the right potent mixture of reality and modern day fable…quite enchanting, mesmeric…I am thrilled that such poetry exists and it is being written by such capable hands.

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2008 Winner: Victoria Brockmeier for my maiden cowboy names

 

Finalists

Patty Seyburn, Hilarity
Bill Mayer, Articulate Matter
Sandy Tseng, Leaving the City

Judge’s comments

This is magic. The poet’s passion for language will compel you to read on and on, eager to get to the next line, the next poem. With originality and inventiveness, urgency and joy, Brockmeier explores no less than the nature of our changing selves. She exalts the life of American farms and fields, hearing “so many tongues, so many startled throats,” and exclaims: “I want this poem to leave the taste / of the mud-salad ozarks in your mouth. / I want you to feel the mission in our voiceless soil.”

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2007 Winner: Carol V. Davis for
Into the Arms of Pushkin: Poems of St. Petersburg

Finalists

Lynn Aarti Chandhok, The View from Zero Bridge
Jacqueline Berger, Hundreds of Beautiful Girls and Three Ugly Ones
Bill Wunder, Pointing at the Moon
Bryan Penberthy, lost-time incident

Judge’s comments

Russia centers this world, in person and at a distance both. The casual detail and patient telling add up everywhere, giving us meaning where difference had been. Showing us what this particular life in Russia feels like makes it our world, even when the speaker struggles to draw meaning from confusion or frustration. In one poem, the speaker tells of laying out the language of the next day on the back of the chair, quite as if it were clothing. We grasp this moment with depth, startled to make the connection between language and clothing. These are great moments in their small detail, abstractions given recognizable form. Finding meaning—a continual act of translation and its failure in so many things—propels the poems in this book. “I wait for a man I barely know / to return from a place I’ve never been.” That emptiness is replaced with substance, filling these pages, fed to us in “the hours between hours,” a time not time, but understanding itself, as something felt, something tasted, something given, if not freely. “Or perhaps no language at all, just a hand on a shoulder, / a reverse immigration.”

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2006 Winner: Rebecca Dunham for The Miniature Room

Finalists

Martin Earl, Obscurity
Moira Linehan, If No Moon
Immy Wallenfels, The Anti-Nostalgia Riots and Other Poems
Bill Wunder, Pointing at the Moon

Judge’s comments

This deeply melodious and intelligent gathering of poems, both painterly and literary in context, bears a stunning lushness of language and vision. There’s a mysterious pulse and scent permeating the exquisitely crafted, sometimes slightly ominous, images. Poems about a small son resonate inside a larger context—the wider natural world and all of civilization. One feels hypnotized inside a “slant” angle of perceptions unhampered by an intrusion of artifice.
The Miniature Room is a manuscript of profound intention and finesse.

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2005 Winner: Mona Lisa Saloy for Red Beans and Ricely Yours

Finalists

Indigo Moor, Tap-Root
Jim Peterson, The Horse Who Bears Me Away
Jane Langley, Can’t Take You Anywhere
Leonard Orr, Clouders

Judge’s comments

This poet has captured the street idioms and culture of New Orleans in a manner that challenge the tourist misconceptions about that fabulous city. She has also succeeded where many performance poets have failed. The poems are music to the ear as well as on the page.

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2004 Winner: Michael Sowder for The Empty Boat

Finalists

Richard St. John, The Pure Inconstancy of Grace [Kant’s Three Questions]
Julie Fay, Blue Scorpion
Terry Ann Thaxton, Getaway Girl
Judith Harway, Fortunes

Judge’s comments

This earthy yet elegant poet is a true heir to all the exciting poetry of the 20th century. Reading these poems, I felt the possible power of all poetry: a way of understanding and connecting to the primal and expanding universe. This poet, evolving from the American Modernists, transforms the ordinary into magic. A journey, a quest: I could not stop or be distracted from his path.

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2003 Winner: Barbara Campbell for Erotic Distance

Finalists

Daniel Bourne, Where No One Spoke the Language
Cynie Cory, Clink Street
Richard Lyons, Pure Geography and Trembling
Deborah Bogen, Landscape and Silos

Judge’s comments

Erotic Distance is an unsettling confrontation with the unending entanglement between man, woman, and child. The poems are raised under a pressured field of plain nouns: room, light, mirror, birds, tree, earth, body. Occasionally the angles soften into circle, the body and the song unburdens itself. But “sitting unopposed in the trees outside thinking” is a privileged position, and the poems allow only the mercy loss can sustain, for as their author says, “I have come a long way, to surrender my body / To the body of the horse.” The singing burns and yet the days open into one, “Now, reach into the quiet for the name of the beloved / into the mouth of the apple.” Who can refuse this chastened exhortation to love?

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2002 Winner: James Gurley for Human Cartography

Finalists

Joshua Poteat, Ornithologies
G. A. O’Connell, The Force of Ice
Lisa Bickmore, Hymn
Patty Seyburn, Mechanical Cluster

Judge’s comments

Its range of interest, its penetration of normal surfaces and limitations, its mature emotional balance make Human Cartography a very strong first book.

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2001 Winner: Christopher Bakken for After Greece

Finalists

Glori Simmons, Graft [Manifesto for the Hands]
Daniel Bourne, Where No One Spoke the Language
Benjamin S. Grossberg, This Dream of Swimming the Hellespont
David Weiss, Vox Humana

Judge’s comments

The language is lucent, calm, introspective, and empathetic, never self-centered, and the questions about interpretations, history, the transitory nature of pleasure, and of seeming self-suficiency of objects I found important and compelling.

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2000 Winner: H. L. Hix for Rational Numbers

Finalists

Deborah Warren, Just Above Our Frequency
Scott Brennan, The Contours of Fixation
Gaylord Brewer, Kill Everything
Bruce Meyer, Anywhere

Judge’s comments

When I agreed to judge the T. S. Eliot Prize, it never occurred to me that I would find a book so ambitious, consummately achieved, and deeply unified as Rational Numbers.

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1999 Winner: David Keplinger for The Rose Inside

Finalists

Jean Nordhaus, Dinner on the Fault Line
Jennifer Rose, The Old Direction of Heaven
Susan Donnelly, Transit
Carol Henrie, So Thin on the Bone

Judge’s comments

This is a wide book and a deep one, alive with marvelous composition and outcry. And yet, for all its zest of expression it is real life and real feeling that is most honored.

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1998 Winner: Rhina Espaillat for Where Horizons Go

Finalists

Charles Clifton, After the Rapture
Nathalie F. Anderson, Following Fred Astaire
Richard Moore, The Naked Scarecrow
Robert Lunday, The Wild Dust
A. M. Juster, Vulgarian at the Gate
Kathleen Aguero, Daughter of Sycorax

Judge’s comments

Poem after successful poem add up to an impressive total. Such developed skill and such mastery of rhyme and meter are certainly rare anymore; so is plainspeaking. All in all, it's a collection likely to persuade readers who think they don’t like poetry that they do, after all.

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1997 Winner: William Baer for The Unfortunates

Finalists

Ann Townsend, Dime Store Erotics
C. G. MacDonald, Human Noise
Jack Butler, The Lost Poems
Karen Krebser, Benedictine Hours
Andrew Glaze, Carnal Blessings

Judge’s comments

The Unfortunates is carefully and very well planned, structured on a moral premise distinguishing truth from falsehood, duty from expediency, and virtue from custom…all pointedly and dramatically illustrated through the many characterizations draw in [the book]: portraits, in essence, of the inhabitants of Eliot’s “Waste Land,” here in full life at the end of the century.

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