Coming Tonight: the National Book Awards

By The Editors on 11.16.11

By tomorrow morning, the National Book Awards will have been announced and there will be only one poetry winner. But as of this afternoon, there are still five finalists: Tonight No Poetry Will Serve by Adrienne Rich, Head Off & Split by Nikky Finney, The Chameleon Couch by Yusef Komunyakaa, Double Shadow by Carl Phillips, and Devotions by Bruce Smith. For the first time ever the awards will be webcast live starting at 8:00 EST; you can watch them here. In the meantime, get in the mood with a selection from Adrienne Rich’s nominated book.

“Axel: backstory”

Steam from a melting glacier

your profile hovering
there   Axel as if we’d lain prone at fifteen
on my attic bedroom floor   elbow to elbow reading
in Baltimorean August-
blotted air
		Axel I’m back to you
brother of strewn books   of late
hours drinking poetry scooped in both hands

Dreamt you into existence, did I, boy-
comrade who would love
		everything I loved

Without my eyelash glittering piercing
sidewise in your eye
where would you have begun, Axel   how
would the wheel-spoke have whirled
your mind?   What word
stirred in your mouth without my 
nipples’ fierce erection?   our 

		Between us   yet
my part belonged to me
		and when we parted
I left no part behind   I knew
how to make poetry happen

Back to you Axel through the crackling heavy
salvaged telephone