2018 National Book Awards: See The Finalists for Poetry!

2018 national book awards poetry

The twenty-five Finalists for the 2018 National Book Awards for Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, Translated Literature, and Young People’s Literature (YPL) were announced today with Buzzfeed News’s AM To DM.

This year’s longlistees for the coveted poetry prize included Rae Armantrout, Jos Charles, Forrest Gander, Terrance Hayes, J. Michael Martinez, Diana Khoi Nguyen, Justin Phillip Reed, Raquel Salas Rivera, Natasha Trethewey, and Jenny Xie.

Now, the longlist has been narrowed to five finalists! See them below.

Each finalist will give a reading of their work at The New School in New York City on November 13. Winners will be announced the following day.

Any title on this list can be purchased by clicking its cover.

Rae Armantrout, Wobble

Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Rae Armantrout is at once a most intimate and coolly calculating poet. If anyone could produce a hybrid of Charlie Chaplin’s playful “Little Tramp” and Charlize Theron’s fierce “Imperator Furiosa,” it would be Armantrout. Her language is unexpected yet exact, playing off the collective sense that the shifting ground of daily reality may be a warning of imminent systemic collapse. While there are glimmers here of what remains of “the natural world,” the poet confesses the human failings, personal and societal, that have led to its devastation. No one’s senses are more acutely attuned than Armantrout’s, which makes her an exceptional observer and reporter of our faults. She leaves us wondering if the American Dream may be a nightmare from which we can’t awaken. Sometimes funny, sometimes alarming, the poems in Wobble play peek-a-boo with doom.

Terrance Hayes, American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin

In seventy poems bearing the same title, Terrance Hayes explores the meanings of American, of assassin, and of love in the sonnet form. Written during the first two hundred days of the Trump presidency, these poems are haunted by the country’s past and future eras and errors, its dreams and nightmares. Inventive, compassionate, hilarious, melancholy, and bewildered–the wonders of this new collection are irreducible and stunning.

Diana Khoi Nguyen, Ghost Of

Ghost Of is a mourning song, not an exorcism or un-haunting of that which haunts, but attuned attention, unidirectional reaching across time, space, and distance to reach loved ones, ancestors, and strangers. By working with, in, and around the photographs that her brother left behind (from which he cut himself out before his death), Nguyen wrestles with what remains: memory, physical voids, and her family captured around an empty space.

Justin Phillip Reed, Indecency

Indecency is boldly and carefully executed and perfectly ragged. In these poems, Justin Phillip Reed experiments with language to explore inequity and injustice and to critique and lament the culture of white supremacy and the dominant social order. Political and personal, tender, daring, and insightful―the author unpacks his intimacies, weaponizing poetry to take on masculinity, sexuality, exploitation, and the prison industrial complex and unmask all the failures of the structures into which society sorts us.

Jenny Xie, Eye Level

Jenny Xie’s award-winning debut, Eye Level, takes us far and near, to Phnom Penh, Corfu, Hanoi, New York, and elsewhere, as we travel closer and closer to the acutely felt solitude that centers this searching, moving collection. Animated by a restless inner questioning, these poems meditate on the forces that moor the self and set it in motion, from immigration to travel to estranging losses and departures. The sensual worlds here―colors, smells, tastes, and changing landscapes―bring to life questions about the self as seer and the self as seen. As Xie writes, “Me? I’m just here in my traveler’s clothes, trying on each passing town for size.” Her taut, elusive poems exult in a life simultaneously crowded and quiet, caught in between things and places, and never quite entirely at home. Xie is a poet of extraordinary perception―both to the tangible world and to “all that is untouchable as far as the eye can reach.”


Remarks on the finalists, courtesy of the National Book Foundation:

Teetering on the edge of the American Dream, Pulitzer Prize winner Rae Armantrout’s Wobble seeks to both playfully and forcefully evoke the devastation of a chaotic, unstoppable culture. In American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin, National Book Award Winner Terrance Hayes works through fear, bewilderment, and ambivalence as he grapples with a moment in American history both new and entirely too familiar. In her debut collection, Ghost OfDiana Khoi Nguyen explores the liminality of mourning, reaching out toward the memories and voids left behind by a lost loved one. Questions of systemic hostility and the struggle against oppressive institutions live at the heart of Justin Phillip Reed’s Indecency, which seeks to intimately confront issues of masculinity, sexuality, racism, and more, working to both critique and lament a culture of exploitation. Interiority and restlessness permeate Jenny Xie’s Eye Level, which meditates on the itinerant body and identity, examining shifting and rarely solidifying experiences of solitude, estrangement, and belonging.

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