Monday, October 20, 2008

Prize Season

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.


Collin Kelley said...

The National Book Award folks should split this year's prize between you and Patricia. Love ya both. :)

Leslie said...

Didn't you already win the T. S. Eliot prize once?

And weren't you like the first American to do it?

Now you might double down?

Jeeze. Give your fellow Americans a shot, why dontcha?


Congrats on all of it. I'm looking forward to reading the book, especially the new poems. How come they were released separately in the UK but not here?

Mark Doty said...

Thanks Collin and Leslie. I'd be happy if all the finalists got a piece of the medal -- that would be just terrific. To answer Leslie's question: in the U.S., it's customary for new & selected volume to be longer -- in the U.K. they are usually more brief. Since I was publishing the new poems over here as part of FIRE TO FIRE, it made sense to do them as a separate book over there. I'll post a picture of the UK edition here soon -- it's just great looking, a wry, unexpected design.