Maybe I'll Have to Start Watching the Pulitzers More Carefully

Two years ago, Ted Kooser won the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for Delights & Shadows. Kooser's poetry, like that of most recent Poets Laureate, generally fills me with a sense of meh. It doesn't offend me, particularly, but I'm certainly not getting out there to buy it.

A student of mine did a review of last year's Pulitzer winner--Claudia Emerson's Late Wife, a book I've become quite taken with. I'll be finishing it in the next couple of days hopefully, so I can get it back to her, and perhaps I'll write a few words about it here.

And then this insomniac morning I discovered that this year's winner is Natasha Trethewey's Native Guard. I was a big fan of her second book Bellocq's Ophelia, and I'll be getting this one soon, no doubt.

Now I'm not saying that Pulitzers have gone and started pushing the envelope in awarding their poetry prizes, but compared to some of their more recent selections--Paul Muldoon, Franz Wright, Stephen Dunn, Carl Dennis--these last two winners are a bit unexpected, and that's a good thing, I think. They're younger and have less of a publishing history--this was their third book in both cases--and Emerson's selection was the first in 9 years for a woman. (Curiously enough, when Lisel Mueller won 9 years ago, she was also part of a two-year winning streak for females). Poets like Emerson and Trethewey will be, for better or worse, part of the next generation of established poets, and I'd rather see collections like that honored by Pulitzer than collected works of poets who have been at this for thirty-plus years.

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