While my 2013 bouts of judging were not so arduous as the prior year's National Book Award stint (316 books plus rereads), they were illuminating. This time it was poetry in the scales. For the Alrich Award I read a winnowed group and chose a winner and two finalists. I found all five to be interesting reads, and that's an encouraging thing for poetry!
While reading for the Aldrich Poetry Award, I tripped and fell into the world of a skeptic obsessed with what he doubts—who takes the symbols and stories of creation and wrests them to his own uses, though God and the skeletons under our skin are never far away, and lend power and support to his poems. The collection by R. G. Evans has the virtues of energy, largeness of subject, strong narrative, and humor that begins with the double meaning of the title, Overtipping the Ferryman. He surprises us in story and in metaphor, giving us the child who leaps from her crib like a toad, the man plunging beneath the sea like a bone anchor, the forked lightning of a woman’s body, the fusing of plucked music and apple. Wandering in his harsh, lively world, we may desire more hours, more life. But in that realm, spiky thistles and flowers of gall blossom along his path, that “seam between belief and what I know is true.”
Marion Considers the Cello, Annabelle Moseley
The View From Here, Sally Cook
A Lack of Sound, Cynthia Neely
The Ways I Lost You, Rosalie Sanara Petrouske
Small Chimes, Julie Brooks Barbour
Before There Were Barbies, Lianne Spidel
Poetry With a Vengeance, Russell Bittner
All finalists and honorable mentions were offered a standard contract for publication by Aldrich Press. The winner receives a monetary award and 50 copies.
I did know one of the finalists, having been on a panel with her and owning one of her books, but I recognized none of the writers that I read, and the names had been removed from the manuscripts.