The ten titles on the The National Book Awards longlist for poetry released today prove poetry is still being published by the Big Five publishers. Over half the titles are published by three of them, RH/Knopf (3 titles), Penguin (2) and Macmillan/FSG (1). W.W. Norton, a large independent publisher that is bastion for poetry, published one of the nominees as did a university press and two independents.
The list includes two prior National Book Award winners, Marilyn Hacker and Terrance Hayes; previous National Book Award finalist Lawrence Raab; and two Cave Canem Fellows, Ross Gay and Robin Coste Lewis.
All but one of the titles were reviewed in the pre-pub journals with half the list receiving starred reviews.
The shortlist will be announced October 15. The winners will be announced on Nov. 18.
The 2015 National Book Award for Poetry Longlist
Ross Gay, Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude (Pitt Poetry Series/University of Pittsburgh Press)
Reviewed by Booklist and Publishers Weekly, which said “these simple, joyful poems read like a litany of what’s good in the world.” The Rumpus featured Gay in one of its Late Nite Poetry Shows.
Amy Gerstler, Scattered at Sea (Penguin)
Reviewed by Library Journal and starred by Publishers Weekly. The Washington Post, picked the title as one of the “Best new poetry collections for July” saying it “throws convention and familiarity overboard and asks us to consider what remains. The work mixes salty humor, invigorating rhythms and sharp-edged wisdom.”
Marilyn Hacker, A Stranger’s Mirror: New and Selected Poems, 1994-2014 (W. W. Norton)
Reviewed by Booklist, Publishers Weekly, and starred by Library Journal. Lambda Literary says the collection “demonstrates Hacker’s continued formal mastery; she effortlessly spins one sonnet into two, then three, then seven, leaving readers always breathless for more.”
Terrance Hayes, How to Be Drawn (Penguin)
Reviewed by Booklist, Library Journal, and starred by Publishers Weekly. NPR says Hayes is “A vital voice that explores race and art and the roving power of language … [his] fifth book is slippery with riddles … full of puns and fake outs, leads and dodges, all encased in muscular music.”
Jane Hirshfield, The Beauty (RH/Knopf)
The only book on the list to receive two starred reviews, from Booklist and Publishers Weekly (LJ also reviewed)., Hirshfield was interviewed in March on NPR. As an introduction they called her “one of our country’s most celebrated poets. She’s been a Guggenheim fellow [and] The Academy of American Poets bestowed her a fellowship for her “distinguished poetic achievement,” an honor shared with Robert Frost and Ezra Pound.”
Robin Coste Lewis, Voyage of the Sable Venus (RH/Knopf)
The trade reviews did not cover Lewis but that does not mean libraries do not know her. The Los Angeles Public Library featured her in a program with last year’s NBA poetry finalist Claudia Rankine, saying Lewis “lyrically catalogs representations of the black figure in the fine arts.”
Ada Limón, Bright Dead Things (Milkweed Editions)
Starred by Library Journal and reviewed by Publishers Weekly, LJ says “Generous of heart, intricate and accessible, the poems in this book are wondrous and deeply moving.” The editors of the Tahoma Literary Journal agree, saying “Limón’s playful language is coupled with a tendency to flow, almost dreamily, into dark content—she moves seamlessly from spiders in the magnolia tree and zucchini in the kitchen to a woman floating dead in a water tank.”
Patrick Phillips, Elegy for a Broken Machine (RH/Knopf)
Reviewed by Publishers Weekly. An interview in storySouth opens with this description of Phillips writing: “You write in what one might call a plain style. Your language is straightforward, uncomplicated. Your tone is always level, even quiet. Your lines are taut, stanzas sparse. And your subject matter is realistic, accessible. Yet the accumulative effect of your poems is astonishing. Their art, it would seem, is concealed in plain view.”
Rowan Ricardo Phillips, Heaven (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Booklist and Publishers Weekly reviewed Phillips with PW making his collection one of their “PW Picks: Books of the Week, June 15, 2015.” It was also one of The Washington Post‘s picks of “Best new poetry collections for July” along with Scattered at Sea.
Lawrence Raab, Mistaking Each Other for Ghosts (Tupelo Press)
Booklist reviewed Rabb, calling his most recent volume “A wonderful, mature, sweeping collection.” His book What We Don’t Know About Each Other was also a finalist for the NBA in 1993.