Friday, March 13, 2009

Poetry Matters: NBCC Chooses Two Books for Award

When the National Book Critics Circle announced its annual award in poetry yesterday, two poets shared the honor -- a situation new to the NBCC but resulting from strong feelings for both books among the selection committee members. The co-winners were Juan Felipe Herrera’s Half the World in Light: New and Selected Poems (University of Arizona Press) and August Kleinzahler’s Sleeping It Off in Rapid City (Farrar, Strauss), which the NBCC called "capstone books to important careers—works that were resonant, weighty, and accomplished."

Kleinzahler's poetry took root in Fort Lee, NJ, where he grew up (along with his school commute to New York City), but since he's lived in San Francisco for more than 20 years, he gets credit for both coasts. Allen Ginsburg pointed out his work early in his career, but Kleinzahler is relatively young to be associated with the Beats -- he was born in 1949.

The New York Times review in 2005 by Timothy Williams is one of the best in painting this poet; the NYTimes also offered an excerpt from Sleeping It Off in Rapid City. And as usual, there's a not-quite-up-to-date summary of Kleinzahler and his books at

More later on Herrera, when I've caught up a bit.

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