Tomorrow morning -- Tuesday the 20th of October -- there will be an ad in the arts section of The New York Times in celebration of FIRE TO FIRE having been named a finalist for the National Book Award. I am feeling pretty well spun around about this, especially since the "new poems" section of the book, published separately in the UK under the title THEORIES AND APPARITIONS, is a finalist for the T.S. Eliot Prize over there -- an annual award for the best book of the year.
Often literary prizes are about launching careers (people starting to notice that you're there, producing) and about crowning them (recognizing the cumulative accomplishments of the senior artist). I'm in that long, odd, sometimes happy, sometimes lunar landscape called "mid-career," nowhere near the beginnings of my art and (I hope) quite a ways from the end.
It's from this perspective that these nominations feel like such a huge boost -- a sign that someone's paying attention, that the life of making is seen and appreciated. I'm nominated along with four terrific poets -- among them Frank Bidart and Richard Howard, two of the finest writers of our times, each of whose work has provide lenses through which I see the world. And two more: Patricia Smith, whose fantastic book about the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina is an unforgettable cycle of poems. And Reginald Gibbons, whose work I've been following for years. I couldn't be happier to be in this company. I'm going shopping for a new tux. November is going to be a huge adventure, and may it commence with an election to elevate our spirits and our hopes.