Friday, September 10, 2010

Poets on the Dylan Thomas Longlist

Dylan Thomas Prize Longlist 2010

Jenny's favorite books »

As I believe I've mentioned before, I like to use award nominees as a way to expand beyond what I would normally read. One blog I follow, Rebecca's Pocket, often has links to various book prizes and articles containing different themed lists. I blame her for my to-read list now approaching 400, actually.

One day there was a link to the Dylan Thomas Prize Longlist for 2010. I'd never heard of it, so I went to check it out. The Dylan Thomas Prize has been around since 2006, and awards writers under 30 who have written in the English language. This year's nominees include poetry, plays, and novels.

I'm trying to get through everything, but I focused on the poets first. For me, the poetry volumes fall into three categories.

Not my thing:

Cailleach: The Hag of Beara by Leanne O'Sullivan.
The entire volume revolves around the concept of Cailleach, a Celtic wise-woman figure. A nice exercise, but I just wasn't into it.

Shore Ordered Ocean by Dora Malech.
I felt like she was trying too hard, experimenting with grammar and vocabulary in a way that made my head hurt rather than spurn me on to further reading.

Enjoyable but ultimately forgettable:

One Eye'd Leigh by Katherine Kilalea.
Sometimes I think poets, particularly female poets, get into a rut of only writing about their immediate daily life. I think I feel the same way about Linda Pastan, actually, and she is acclaimed, so there are people who will also really like Kilalea. I think because of the mundane subject matter of the poems, I just don't remember anything about them.

Superb, hoping they make the shortlist:

Clamor by Elyse Fenton.
This entire volume is from the perspective of the poet whose husband is deployed in Baghdad. I said earlier I didn't care for concept poetry, but this is fantastic. She is so honest about the balance between support and worry, violence and the media, and the reality vs. the fantasy after someone returns from war. These were gut wrenching.

Watering Can by Caroline Bird.
I would be surprised if she didn't make the shortlist. Bird's poems are enjoyable to read, some of them are hilarious, and they demand to be read out loud. Lost Tuesday is my favorite, and meant even more because I read it on a very bad Tuesday!

Ex nihilo by Adebe D.A.
I have to say, I think this poet has the potential to be great. She has a unique voice and balances extreme intelligence with cultural resonance. My favorite of the group of poets nominated this time around. I particularly enjoyed "New York, My Future Love," "Colour Lessons," and "I Am Not Cleopatra."

The shortlist is supposed to be announced sometime this month, but I'm working through the novels soon. I read The Girl with Glass Feet a few months back because I was at the public library and it had a pretty cover, but there are still eight to go!

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