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The Los Angeles Times Book Prize 1986

October 26, 1986

On Nov. 7, The Times will award its annual Book Prizes in five categories--biography, history, fiction, poetry and current interest--along with the Robert Kirsch Award for a body of work by a writer living in or writing on the West. This week we publish excerpts from some of the books nominated in poetry. Not excerpted, but also nominated, are: "Selected Poems" by John Ashbery, (Viking); "Collected Poems 1928-1985" by Stephen Spender (Random House) and "This Is Not a Letter and Other Poems" by Kay Boyle (Sun & Moon). "Selected Poems"by Robert Bly

(Harper & Row).

Robert Bly is known to his readers as both a wonderful pastoral poet, capturing the Minnesota countryside in precise, pared - down observations, and a poet of political impact: His poems of protest against the war in Vietnam, "The Light Around the Body," won him the National Book Award. In this anthology, Bly comments on his own professional evolution. Of the poems from "Silence in the Snowy Fields," he writes: "At thirty-two I felt for the first time in adult life an unattached part of my soul join a tree standing in the center of a field. The tree's experience, existing without human companionship, and losing and gaining its leaves alone, was not unlike my own fragmentation, or estrangement, or unattachment. . . . In such moments, prepared for by solitude and reading, I wrote a kind of poem I had never written before. It is not iambic, but free verse with distinct memories of form. . . . I don't feel much human relationship in these poems, and the hundred thousand objects of twentieth-century life are absent also."

Uneasiness in Fall \f7 The fall has come, clear as the eyes of


Awkward sounds come from the sea,

Sounds of muffled oarlocks

And swampings in lonely bays,

Surf crashing on unchristened shores,

And the wash of tiny snail shells in the

wandering gravel.

My body also is lost or wandering:

I know it,

As I cradle a pen, or walk down a stair

Holding a cup in my hand,

Not breaking into the pastures that lie in

the sunlight.

This sloth is far inside the body,

The sloth of the body lost among the

wandering stones of kindness.

Something homeless is looking on the long


A dog lost since midnight, a box-elder

Bug who doesn't know

Its walls are gone, its house

Burnt. Even the young sun is lost,

Wandering over earth as the October

night comes down.

"Collected Poems 1948-1984"

by Derek Walcott

(Farrar, Straus & Giroux).

Derek Walcott was born in St. Lucia, West Indies, in 1930. He now divides his time between Boston and Trinidad. Walcott's first collection of poems was published in St. Lucia in 1948. Since then, he has published eight well-received collections addressing a wide variety of themes and issues--from ruminations upon love and literature in the West Indies to his thoughts on places he has traveled to--Wales, Rome, Cold Spring Harbor. Walcott's verse reads as both lyrical and concrete, accessible and probing. His poems are as inviting as a door half ajar, opening to a warmly lit room from which emanates a hypnotic melody growing more complex with each variation on its theme.


Joyce was afraid of thunder,

but lions roared at his funeral

from the Zurich zoo.

Was it Zurich or Trieste?

No matter. These are legends, as much

as the death of Joyce is a legend,

or the strong rumour that Conrad

is dead, and that Victory is ironic.

On the edge of the night-horizon

from this beach house on the cliffs

there are now, till dawn,

two glares from the miles-out-

at-sea derricks; they are like

the glow of the cigar

and the glow of the volcano

at Victory' s end.

One could abandon writing

for the slow-burning signals

of the great, to be, instead,

their ideal reader, ruminative,

voracious, making the love of masterpieces

superior to attempting

to repeat or outdo them,

and be the greatest reader in the world.

At least it requires awe,

which has been lost to our time;

so many people have seen everything,

so many people can predict,

so many refuse to enter the silence

of victory, the indolence

that burns at the core,

so many are no more than

erect ash, like the cigar,

so many take thunder for granted.

How common is the lightning,

how lost the leviathans

we no longer look for!

There were giants in those days.

In those days they made good cigars.

I must read more carefully.

"Where the Water Comes Together With Other Water"by Raymond Carver

(Vintage/Random House).

Raymond Carver's gifts as a storyteller shine through his poetry, which he has been publishing alongside his fiction. Sometimes a Carver poem also works as a short story, with all its elements -- character, diction, place, event--compressed intact into the brevity of verse. And sometimes Carver delivers the goods in pure lyrical form, in words as full of yearning and sensibility as those of a very young man, but poems possessing the hard-won qualities of focus, stillness and irony only rewarded by experience.

Ask Him Reluctantly, my son goes with me

through the iron gates

of the cemetery in Montparnasse.

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