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Laura Kasischke Wins First Rilke Poetry Prize

By Harriet Staff

The University of North Texas Creative Writing Program inaugurated a $10,000 Rilke Poetry Prize last year, to recognize “exceptional artistry and vision written by a mid-career poet.” The first winner is Laura Kasischke for her collection Space, In Chains.

Here’s a snippet from an article on Art & Seek:

The UNT judges declare that Kasischke’s writing “reveals a penetrating insight into what makes people work and not work through her characteristic emotional range, wit, surprising and uncanny imagery.”

In The New York Times Sunday Book Review, Stephen Burt said that of Kasischke’s books, Space, in Chains might be the “most ambitious — and the most disturbing, as it strives to comprehend first and last things…. No poet has tried so hard to cut through suburban American illusion while respecting the lives, young and old, that it nurtures or saves. ”

Personally, I happen to love “The photograph album in a junk shop” — which lists the various photo images (“the shadow of that terrible / animal with horns / at every petting zoo”) and concludes with Grandma — “her face waits on every page / like an axe left behind on the moon.” And there’s an aside in Kasischke’s opening to “Time.” She mentions “a twentieth-century dream of Europe” — and then helpfully adds, “all horrors, and pastries.”

A succinct, 21st-century update to Stephen Dedalus’ “shattered glass and toppling masonry.”

The Rilke prize rules stipulate the poet must come to UNT. Kasischke, who teaches at the University of Michigan, will be giving a reading at UNT April 19, and another at the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture April 20.

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Posted in Poetry News on Tuesday, February 21st, 2012 by Harriet Staff.