Sometimes it feels as if all the buzz in literature, especially poetry, is about youth. Who won the Yale Younger Poets Award? The XYZ Fellowship for Writers Under Thirty? That’s only one of the reasons we’re thrilled for Lisa Russ Spaar, who nearly a decade after being nationally recognized as an “emerging writer” by the Rona Jaffe Foundation, has not only emerged but stayed on top of her game, winning a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship only last year. Not surprisingly, she’s been a mentor to a new generation of poets, founding the University of Virginia’s undergraduate poetry program.

This week, we’re happy to spread the word that Spaar, along with the iconic Charles Wright, has been chosen to receive a Library of Virginia Literary award:

Spaar won for her third and most recent book, “Satin Cash.” The judges said her poems “abound in surprising inversions of syntax, and a diction striking for its sudden shifts from demotic to baroquely laden speech — from imagistic precision to statement.”

“It is an honor for me to have my poetry recognized in a year of especially outstanding poetry nominations,” Spaar said. “Although I was born north of the Mason-Dixon line, I’ve lived in Virginia for well over half my life, and certainly I became a poet in Virginia. It is a joy, then, to be accepted in this particularly distinguished way as a ‘Virginia writer’ – a talented and diverse and manifold legion of what Wordsworth called ‘the noble living and the noble dead.'”

In addition to her three collections of poetry, she has edited two anthologies, “All That Mighty Heart: London Poems” (from University of Virginia Press) and “Acquainted With the Night: Insomnia Poems,” and published two chapbooks, “Blind Boy on Skates” and “Cellar.” Her work is included in “Best American Poetry 2008.”

Below, see a couple of the reasons why: her poem “Love Poem,” published in 1986 in Virginia Quarterly Review, and a clip of her performing with  Rita Dove, Carol Muske-Dukes and Marilyn Nelson at the 2001 conference of the Associated Writing Programs (AWP) in Palm Springs, Calif. We realize now that we hadn’t lived before we heard them sing some William Blake to the tune of “Who Wrote the Book of Love.”

Love Poem

Why was I born if it
wasn’t forever?


I want to give you
more than these words
finite as husks
or a string of barbed wire.
I want you to see
the blue knot my fist made,
cast down against this page
in sunlight so bright ,
it seemed to swallow
the marks I made here.
How the chuckling shadows
of full-leafed trees
swarmed around me while I wrote,
as though winter
were some remote, impossible joke;
and how they lengthened, eventually,
like the day,
into roads straight as rods,
slabs of gold, consoling sun
on either side
denying that there ever really are
any other paths
than the one we finally take.
I want to give you
what you cannot see here,
the shadow of my body
spilling across your face
when you lie under me,
as deep and intangible
as honeysuckle or any living thing
that heaps its fragrant weight
against a fence,
trusting it, forever.

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  • Ashley Nichole Etter January 20, 2010 at 11:00 am


    Your poems are truly beautiful. I have wrote many poems lately and I have let almost everyone that I know read them and I asked for their opinions. I would like for you to read one in particular, I think it is one of my best. I poured my heart into every word. Please reply, I would like to know your opinion as well.