Most happy to be able to report that last night Rae Armantrout was awarded the National Book Critics Circle Award for her book Versed from Wesleyan University Press. As Ron Silliman has said about Rae’s work:

“Trying to read a book by Rae Armantrout in a single sitting is like trying to drink a bowl of diamonds. What’s inside is all so shiny & clear & even tiny that it appears perfectly do-able. But the stones are so hard & their edges so chiseled that the instant you begin they’ll start to rip your insides apart.”

Here is one of those gems from the new book:


while all the while
the sea breaks
and rolls, painlessly, under.

If we’re not copying it,
we’re lonely.

Is this the knowledge
that demands to be
passed down?

Time is made from swatches
of heaven and hell.

If we’re not killing it,
we’re hungry.

—from “Simple”

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  1. Rae has always been a guiding light in contemporary poetry and, this being a rare thing, should not be simply shrugged off but… I have found myself, at least in the last few books, becoming disheartened by the Tateian (James that is) tendencies (Tate does what he does so well but his “students” usually just create derivates of the mediocre sort). With Versed: I felt this almost the whole way through. Rae deserves adulation in the highest regard but Versed is not the book to be lauded.

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