The sixth annual Los Angeles Times Book Prize program takes place this year on Nov. 1.
Today we publish excerpts from the five books nominated for the poetry prize.
ROBERT PENN WARREN, New and Selected Poems, 1923-1985 (Random House).
The grief of the coyote seems to make
Stars quiver whiter over the blankness which
Is Arizona at midnight. In sleeping-bag,
Protected by the looped rampart of anti-rattler horsehair rope,
I take a careful twist, grinding sand on sand,
To lie on my back. I stare. Stars quiver, twitch,
In their infinite indigo. I know
Nothing to tell the stars, who go,
Age on age, along tracks they understand, and
The only answer I have for the coyote would be
My own grief, for which I have no
Tongue--indeed, scarcely understand.
Eastward, I see
No indication of dawn, not yet ready for the scream
Of inflamed distance,
Which is the significance of day.
But dimly I do see
Against that darkness, lifting in blunt agony,
The single great cactus. Once more I hear the coyote
Wail. I strain to make out the cactus. It has
Its own necessary beauty.
ALLEN GINSBERG, Collected Poems, 1947-1980 (Harper & Row).
Homage Kenneth Koch
If I were doing my Laundry I'd wash my dirty Iran
I'd throw in my United States, and pour on the Ivory Soap, scrub up Africa,
put all the birds and elephants back in the jungle,
I'd wash the Amazon river and clean the oily Carib & Gulf of Mexico,
Rub that smog off the North Pole, wipe up all the pipelines in Alaska,
Rub a dub dub for Rocky Flats and Los Alamos, Flush that sparkly Cesium
out of Love Canal
Rinse down the Acid Rain over the Parthenon & Sphinx, Drain the Sludge
out of the Mediterranean basin & make it azure again,
Put some blueing back into the sky over the Rhine, bleach the little Clouds
so snow return white as snow,
Cleanse the Hudson Thames & Neckar, Drain the Suds out of Lake Erie
Then I'd throw big Asia in one giant Load & wash out the blood & Agent
Dump the whole mess of Russia and China in the wringer, squeeze out the
tattletail Gray of U.S. Central American police state,
& put the planet in the drier & let it stand 20 minutes or an Aeon till it came
Boulder, April 26, 1980
VIKRAM SETH, The Humble Administrator's Garden (Carcanet).
The Humble Administrator's Garden
A plump gold carp nudges a lily pad
And shakes the raindrops off like mercury,
And Mr. Wang walks round. "Not bad, not bad."
He eyes the Fragrant Chamber dreamily.
He eyes the Rainbow Bridge. He may have got
The means by somewhat dubious means, but now
This is the loveliest of all gardens. What
Do scruples know of beauty anyhow?
The Humble Administrator admires a bee
Poised on a lotus, walks through the bamboo wood,
Strips half a dozen loquats off a tree
And looks about and sees that it is good.
He leans against a willow with a dish
And throws a dumpling to a passing fish.
X. J. KENNEDY, Cross Ties, Selected Poems (University of Georgia).
Out walking ties left over from a track
Where nothing travels now but rust and grass,
I could take stock in something that would pass
Bearing down Hell-bent from behind my back:
A thing to sidestep or go down before,
Far-off, indifferent as that curfew's wail
The evening wind flings like a sack of mail
Or close up as the moon whose headbeam stirs
A flock of cloud to make tracks. Down to strafe
Bristle-backed grass a hawk falls--there's a screech
Like steel wrenched taut till severed. Out of reach
Or else beneath desiring, I go safe,
Walk on, tensed for a leap, unreconciled
To a dark void all kindness.
When I spill
The salt I throw the Devil some and, still,
I let them sprinkle water on my child.
SEAMUS HEANEY, Station Island
(Farrar, Straus & Giroux).
The white towelling bathrobe
ungirdled, the hair still wet,
first coldness of the underbreast
like a ciborium in the palm.
Our bodies are the temples
of the Holy Ghost. Remember?
And the little, fitted, deep-slit drapes
on and off the holy vessels
regularly? And the chasuble
so deftly hoisted? But vest yourself
in the word you taught me
and the stuff I love: slub silk.
L. KENT WHITEHEAD