Poetry Sunday: Laura Kasischke Nabs Top Book Critics Circle Honor

March 11, 2012 by  
Filed under Poetry

In January, we were thrilled when so many of the nominees for the National Book Critics Circle Awards were women—some of whom we’d been cheering already, others new discoveries. So we waited with bated breath to see how the awards would come out. We weren’t disappointed that garlands went to Edith Pearlman’s novel Binocular Vision, Mira Bartok’s autobiography The Memory Palace, and—for poetry—the sly work of Laura Kasischke, for her new work Space, in Chains.

Kara Dorris wrote of the work in American Literary Review:  “Space, in Chains is Laura Kasischke’s eighth book of poetry, and, again, she carries us into a world that is tangible and temporal, devastating and gratifying. . . . This collection of poetry speaks to the chains around us, visible or not, from the smallest molecule, to the everyday, to the unthinkable loss of a loved one. Kasischke reveals these bindings through extraordinary imagery and inspired syntactic control, knowing the exact moment to reveal or disguise, to accelerate or tap the breaks, creating poetry of poignant beauty and intoxicating truths.”

We can’t wait to read Space, in Chains (go here to buy the book). Copper Canyon Press has also offered these brief glimpses of her work, including the title poem.  And below, a brief clip of the poet herself, reading an earlier poem that’s just as intoxicating.

We offer great congratulations to Laura Kasischke, and hope for many more years of her guidance.


The call of the one duck flying south

so far behind the others
in their neat little v, in their
competence of plans and wings, if

you didn’t listen you would think
it was a cry for help
or sympathy—
friends! friends!
but it isn’t.
Silence of the turtle on its back in the street.
Silence of the polar bear pulling its wounded weight onto the ice.
Silence of the antelope with a broken leg.
Silence of the old dog asking for no further explanation.
was it I believed I was
God’s favorite creature? I,
who carry my feathery skeleton across the sky now, calling
out for all of us. I, who am doubt now, with a song.


Here and there some scrap of beauty gets snatched from this or that: One
child’s voice rising above the children’s choir. A few wild notes of laughter
passing through the open window of a passing car. That pink handkerchief
waved at the parade. The tiny Nile-blue tile broken at the edge of the mosaic
—all shining accident and awe. And this
last second or two of dreaming
in which your face
returns to me completely. Not
even needing to be, being
so alive again to me.


 Space, in Chains

Things that are beautiful, and die. Things that fall asleep in the afternoon, in
sun. Things that laugh, then cover their mouths, ashamed of their teeth. A
strong man pouring coffee into a cup. His hands shake, it spills. His wife falls
to her knees when the telephone rings. Hello? Goddammit, hello?
Where is their child?
Hamster, tulips, love, gigantic squid. To live. I’m not endorsing it.
Any single, transcriptional event. The chromosomes of the roses. Flagella,
cilia, all the filaments of touching, of feeling, of running your little hand
hopelessly along the bricks.
Sky, stamped into flesh, bending over the sink to drink the tour de force of
It’s all space, in chains—the chaos of birdsong after a rainstorm, the steam
rising off the asphalt, a small boy in boots opening the back door, stepping
out, and someone calling to him from the kitchen,
Sweetie, don’t be gone too long.



Women with Honors: National Book Critics Circle Nominees

January 24, 2012 by  
Filed under Books

At Women’s Voices for Change, we’ve lately been spending a lot of time on the Hollywood “awards season.” However, the beginning of the year is also the season for honoring  the writers of books. This week,  the National Book Critics Circle announced its nominees for the publishing year 2011. While most of the press attention has gone to the well-deserved nominations of Jonathan Lethem, Adam Hochschild, and Jeffrey Eugenides, we commend the seasoned women who are also in the running.  Some are well known to us, others less so, but at WVFC, we can’t help but root for them all.  

Diane Ackerman. 
Nominated for Autobiography for One Hundred Names for Love: A Stroke, A Marriage, and the Language of Healing (W.W. Norton). Ackerman, writes WVFC’s Laura Sillerman, “has that rare gift of intelligence that begins in offering—a kind of one-woman outreach program wherein she means to help us all to understand that our time here can be kinder and conducted from the standpoint of humanity’s higher purpose. As a poet, novelist, essayist and guide to the natural world, she has explained that purpose with the touch of a sprite and the conviction of a goddess.”

Amanda Foreman. 
Nominated in Nonfiction for A World on Fire: Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War (Random House). Called the “queen of historical biography” by the UK’s Independent, Foreman made her first big splash with her first book, Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire, based on her doctoral thesis from Oxford University; the book has since become  a television documentary, a radio play starring Judi Dench, and a film, The Duchess, starring Ralph Fiennes and Keira Knightley.  About A World on Fire, which The New York Times called “remarkable” and Kirkus Reviews  “a staggering work of research,” Sam Leith at The Spectator concluded that the book “does roll along with the ragged grandeur of one of Ulysses S. Grant’s infantry battalions. . . . If you’ve an appetite for serious history in widescreen you’ll be in hog-heaven.”

Laura Kasischke. 
Nominated in Poetry for Space, in Chain(Copper Canyon Press). Laura Kasischke teaches in the University of Michigan MFA program and the Residential College. She has published seven collections of poetry and seven novels. She lives with her family in Chelsea, Michigan. Her publisher writes of the nominated book: “Space, in Chains speaks in ghostly voices, fractured narratives, songs, prayers, and dark riddles as it moves through contemporary tragedies of grief and the complex succession of generations. In her eighth book of poetry, Laura Kasischke has pared the construction of her verse to its bones, leaving haunting language and a visceral strangeness of imagery. By turns mournful and celebratory, Kasischke’s poetry insists upon asking hard questions that are courageously left unanswered.”

Edith Pearlman. 
Nominated in Fiction for Binocular Vision: New and Selected Stories (Lookout Press). Edith Pearlman has published more than 250 works of short fiction and short nonfiction. Her first collection of stories, Vaquita, won the Drue Heinz Literature Prize and was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press in 1996. Her second, Love Among The Greats (Eastern Washington University Press, 2002) won the Spokane Annual Fiction Prize. Her third collection, How to Fall, was published by Sarabande Press in 2005 and won the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction. “Pearlman’s view of the world is large and compassionate, delivered through small, beautifully precise moments,” The New York Timess Roxana Robinson writes of Binocular Vision. “Her characters inhabit terrain that all of us recognize, one defined by anxieties and longing, love and grief, loss and exultation. These quiet, elegant stories add something significant to the literary landscape.”

Dubravka Ugresic. 
Nominated in Criticism for Karaoke Culture (Open Letter). Dubravka Ugresic “writes in short, episodic sections, making surprising leaps,” wrote a Los Angeles Times review of Karaoke Culture. “An essay that begins with a Hemingway look-alike contest hops quickly to the arrest of  Serbian war criminal Radovan Karadzic. The connections are electric: It’s an intellect in action, ideas zapping across the page.” Ugresic was best known in the former Yugoslavia for her fiction. Her novel Forsiranje romana-reke was given the coveted NIN Prize for the best novel of the year: Ugresic was the first woman to receive this honor. In 1991, when the war broke out in the former Yugoslavia, Ugresic took a firm anti-nationalistic stand and consequently an anti-war stand. She started to write critically about nationalism (both Croatian and Serbian), the stupidity and criminality of war, and soon became a target of the nationalistically charged journalists, officials, politicians, fellow writers, and anonymous citizens. She was ostracized and exposed to harsh and persistent media harassment, and  left Croatia in 1993, lives in Amsterdam, has published  novels and books of essays, and teaches occasionally at American and European universities. 


We’ll hear a lot about the golden boys between now and March 8, when the winners will be announced. But each of these women, in her breadth of experience and acclaimed vision, is already a winner.