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Nocturne at High Noon. And the National Book Award Goes to . . .
From a list of the most interesting list of of finalists ever (so says Ron Silliman), the National Book Award judges picked Keith Waldrop’s Transcendental Studies: A Trilogy (UC Press) as this year’s winner.
Waldrop, a fixture of the poetry world of Providence, Rhode Island, has been celebrated as a translator (most recently of Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal) and as a publisher, with his wife Rosmarie, of Burning Deck Press.
Transcendental Studies: A Trilogy is made up of three long poem sequences that mix philosophy and poetry in a style familiar to readers of Waldrop’s fourteen other collections.
“These powerful poems,” says his publisher, “at once metaphysical and personal, reconcile Waldrop’s romantic tendencies with formal experimentation, uniting poetry and philosophy and revealing him as a transcendentalist for the new millennium.”
Publisher’s Weekly called the collection “entrancing” and the Providence Sunday Journal said it’s “a complex, absorbing work.”
The National Book Award judges said: “If transcendental immanence were possible, it would be because Keith Waldrop had invented it; he’s the only one who could—and in Transcendental Studies he has. These three linked series achieve a fusion arcing from the Romantic to the Postmodern that demonstrates language’s capacity to go to extremes—and to haul daily lived experience right along with it: life imitates language, and when language becomes these poems, life itself gets more various, more volatile, more vital.”
Pennsound has a large collection of Waldrop recordings up for those who want deep immersion into the transcendental experience.
For anyone else who just wants a taste of the celebration, here’s a short clip from St. Mark’s Poetry Project.
Have the NBAs transcended? Has this award gone to a notably different poet than it has in the past (2008: Mark Doty; 2007: Robert Hass; 2006: Nathaniel Mackey)?