Where the Person and Political Intersect in Poetry

I’m fascinated by the notion of “political poetry,” of writing verse about social and political issues that withstands the test of time and does not become dated. It’s no easy task, and it’s a challenge that I’ve dealt with in my body of work. Recently, Poets’ Quarterly published my essay, “Going Inside the Cave: Where the Personal and Political Intersect in Contemporary Narrative American Poetry,” on this very topic. I looked at the work of four contemporary poets, Toi Derricotte and Terrance Hayes, specifically their address of personal history and racial issues, and Sharon Olds and Gary Soto, specifically their use of confessional poetry as a means to address issues of gender and identity.

I’d be interested in any comments and thoughts readers may have about the essay. I also encourage you to follow Poets’ Quarterly on Facebook and Twitter because the editors do a wonderful job of posting articles about the current state of contemporary poetry.

Sharon Olds, Adam Johnson Win Pulitizer Prizes

Today, the Pulitzer Prize committee announced its winners, and decided to give an award for the fiction category too, after not doing so last year. Here is a write-up from Poets & Writers:

The Pulitzer Prize board announced the winners and finalists of the 2013 Pulitzer Prizes today in New York City. Of the twenty-one categories, the prizes in letters are given annually for works published in the previous year by American authors.

The winner in fiction is The Orphan Master’s Son (Random House) by Adam Johnson. The finalists were Nathan Englander’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank (Knopf) and Eowyn Ivey’s The Snow Child (Little, Brown). The winner in poetry is Stag’s Leap (Knopf) by Sharon Olds. The finalists were Collected Poems by the late Jack Gilbert (Knopf) and The Abundance of Nothing by Bruce Weigl (TriQuarterly). The winner in general nonfiction is Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys (Harper) by Gilbert King. The finalists were Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity (Random House) and David George Haskell’s The Forest Unseen: A Year’s Watch in Nature (Viking).

The finalists and winner for the poetry category do not surprise me, except for  Bruce Weigl, mostly because I’m happy that a small press (TriQuarterly), though one of the larger small presses, made the final list.  As for Sharon Olds winning, what can be said about that? She’s been on the scene for decades. She’s a huge name. She’s earned it.