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2016 National Book Awards: Poetry

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The National Book Award poetry longlist
The National Book Award poetry longlist
Courtesy of the National Book Awards

All week, the National Book Awards will be releasing its longlists of honorees: each day, a new genre. The finalists will be announced Oct. 13, and the winners will be named on Nov. 16.

Today the organization unveiled the contenders for the poetry prize. Notably, Minneapolis-based publisher Graywolf Press has three collections in the running. No other press has more than one.

 "The Performance of Becoming Human" by Daniel Borzutzky

"In 'The Performance of Becoming Human,' the bay of Valparaiso merges into the western shore of Lake Michigan, where [Daniel] Borzutzky continues his poetic investigation into the political and economic violence shared by Chicago and Chile, two places integral to his personal formation." - Brooklyn Arts Press

 "Collected Poems 1974 - 2004" by Rita Dove

Rita Dove is as decorated a poet as you will find on any shelf. The former U.S. poet laureate has a Pulitzer and National Medal of Art to her name. This collection spans 30 years and seven books of poetry, and ranges from the pains of adolescence to the reinvention of a Greek myth.

 "Archeophonics" by Peter Gizzi

"Archeophonics, defined as the archeology of lost sound, is one way of understanding the role and the task of poetry: to recover the buried sounds and shapes of languages in the tradition of the art, and the multitude of private connections that lie undisclosed in one's emotional memory." -Wesleyan University Press

 "The Selected Poems of Donald Hall" by Donald Hall

The work of Donald Hall, another former U.S. poet laureate, is showcased in a collection handpicked by Hall himself. Now in his 80s and no longer writing, he instead turned to his archives to compile this new book.

 "The Abridged History of Rainfall" by Jay Hopler

"In lyric poems by turns droll and desolate, [Jay] Hopler documents the struggle to live in the face of great loss, a task that sends him ranging through Florida's torrid subtropics, the mountains of the American West, the streets of Rome, and the Umbrian countryside." -McSweeney's

 "Bestiary" by Donika Kelly

"Donika Kelly's 'Bestiary' is a catalogue of creatures — from the whale and ostrich to the pegasus and chimera to the centaur and griffin. Among them too are poems of love, self-discovery, and travel, from 'Out West' to 'Back East.' Lurking in the middle of this powerful and multifaceted collection is a wrenching sequence that wonders just who or what is the real monster inside this life of survival and reflection." -Graywolf Press

 "World of Made and Unmade" by Jane Mead

"[Jane] Mead's fifth collection candidly and openly explores the long process that is death. These resonant poems discover what it means to live, die, and come home again. We're drawn in by sorrow and grief, but also the joys of celebrating a long life and how simple it is to find laughter and light in the quietest and darkest of moments." - Alice James Books

 "Look" by Solmaz Sharif

"'Look' asks us to see the ongoing costs of war as the unbearable loss of human lives and also the insidious abuses against our everyday speech. In this virtuosic array of poems, lists, shards, and sequences, Sharif assembles her family's and her own fragmented narratives in the aftermath of warfare." - Graywolf Press

 "Blackacre" by Monica Youn

"'Blackacre' is a centuries-old legal fiction — a placeholder name for a hypothetical estate. Treacherously lush or alluringly bleak, these poems reframe their subjects as landscape, as legacy — a bereavement, an intimacy, a racial identity, a pubescence, a culpability, a diagnosis. With a surveyor's keenest tools, Youn marks the boundaries of the given, what we have been allotted: acreage that has been ruthlessly fenced, previously tenanted, ploughed and harvested, enriched and depleted." - Graywolf Press

"Blue Laws: Selected and Uncollected Poems, 1995 - 2015" by Kevin Young

This compilation includes not just highlights of Kevin Young's long career, but also previously unpublished pieces — "B sides" and "bonus tracks," as the publisher, Knopf, promises. The wide-ranging poems address "family, Southern food, and loss," to name just a few topics Young investigates.