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Vassar Miller Prize in Poetry

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Vassar Miller Prize in Poetry

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Booker's Point

Megan Grumbling

Bernard A. Booker, wry old Maine codger and unofficial mayor of Ell Pond, is the subject of Booker's Point, an oral history-inspired portrait-in-verse. Weaving storytelling, natural history, and the poetry of place, the collection evokes the sensibility of rural New England and the pleasures of a good story. "Grumbling is subtle, conjures the natural world richly and convincingly, and her subject matter is surprising and intriguing. I also admire how she handles meter."—Morri Creech, judge and author of Sleep of Reason

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Circles Where the Head Should Be

Caki Wilkinson

The poems in Circles Where the Head Should Be are full of objects and oddities, bits of news, epic catalogues, and a cast of characters hoping to make sense of it all. Underneath the often whimsical surface, however, lies a search for those connections we long for but so often miss, and a wish for art to bridge the gaps. “Circles Where the Head Should Be has its own distinctive voice, a lively intelligence, insatiable curiosity, and a decided command of form. These qualities play off one another in ways that instruct and delight. An irresistible book.”—J. D. McClatchy, author of Mercury Dressing: Poems, judge

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Club Icarus

Matt Miller

Matt W. Miller was born and grew up in Lowell, Massachusetts. He earned a BA at Yale University, where he also played varsity football, and his MFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College. His poems have appeared in Slate, Harvard Review, Notre Dame Review, Third Coast, and other journals. His first book, Cameo Diner: Poems, was published in 2005. A Wallace Stegner Fellow in Poetry at Stanford University , Miller has been nominated for five Pushcart Prizes. Currently, he is an instructor of English and a football coach at Philips Exeter Academy. He lives in Exeter, New Hampshire, with his wife and their children.

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Death of a Ventriloquist

Gibson Fay-LeBlanc

This debut collection includes love songs and prayers, palinodes and pleas, short histories and tragic tales as well as a series of ventriloquist poems that track the epiphanies and consequences of speaking in a voice other than one’s own. Other poems speak to a Beloved and the highs and lows of parenthood and personhood—all with music and verve, with formal dexterity, with sadness and humor, with an intimate voice that can both whisper in our ears and grab us by the collar and implore us to listen. “What drives the poems in this wonderfully animated debut volume and prompts the reader’s pleasure in them is the patent honesty of the poet’s voice. In the ‘ventriloquist’ series itself, Fay-LeBlanc creates a remarkable refracted self-portrait, bristling with moments of unabashed illumination.”—Eamon Grennan, author of Out of Sight

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In the Permanent Collection

Stefanie Wortman

Trying to make sense of a disordered world, Stefanie Wortman's debut collection examines works of art as varied as casts of antique sculpture, 19th-century novels, and even scenes from reality television to investigate the versions of order that they offer. These deft poems yield moments of surprising levity even as they mount a sharp critique of human folly. "These poems seem haunted by a mostly nameless melancholia. In The Permanent Collection, however, turns its grim geography of prisons, mortuaries, and tawdry suburbs into something close to classical elegy. 'In sunken rooms,' Wortman writes, 'on scratchy rugs, maybe we’ve never known happiness.' It’s that 'maybe'—the smart hedge—that renders her poems complex, often beguiling, but never without a gesture of redemption. This should be part of any serious poet’s permanent collection."— Chad Davidson, author of The Last Predicta and judge

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Mister Martini

Richard Carr

Spare yet evocative, the poems in Mister Martini pair explorations of a father-son relationship with haiku-like martini recipes. The martini becomes a daring metaphor for this relationship as it moves from the son’s childhood to the father’s death. Each poem is a strong drink in its own right, and together they form a potent narrative of alienation and love between a father and son struggling to communicate. “This is a truly original book. There’s nothing extra: sharp and clear and astonishing. Viva!” —Naomi Shihab Nye, judge and author of 19 Varieties of Gazelle

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Ornament

Anna Lena Phillips Bell

In this debut collection, Anna Lena Phillips Bell explores the foothills of the Eastern U.S., and the old-time Appalachian tunes and Piedmont blues she was raised to love. With formal dexterity—in ballads and sonnets, Sapphics and amphibrachs—the poems in Ornament traverse the permeable boundary between the body and the natural world.

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Other Psalms

Jordan Windholz

In his debut collection, Jordan Windholz recasts devotional poetics and traces the line between faith and its loss. Other Psalms gives voice to the skeptic who yet sings to the silence that "swells with the noise of listening." If faith is necessary, this collection suggests, it is necessary as material for its own unmaking. Without a doubt, these are poems worth believing in, announcing, as they do, a new and necessary voice in American poetry. "Ambitious and exigent, these poems are refreshingly alert to all of the formal necessities of contemporary poetry, recognizing the inadequacy of any single measure to encompass the human longing for presence."--Averill Curdy, author of Song and Error and judge

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Stray Home

Amy M. Clark

With poems that combine the self-scrutiny of Philip Larkin with the measure of Elizabeth Bishop, Amy M. Clark burnishes her first collection, Stray Home, with exquisite understatement and formal control. Sweeter than Larkin and more intimate than Bishop, these poems address the suppressed pain and shame of living as a childless woman in a world of mothers, the dissociation attendant on depression and fraught family relationships, and the search for a sense of belonging in the face of dislocation. Stray Home cuts deeply to discover the buried emotions and insights universal to all suffering and compassionate human beings. “Clark is able to imbue our small, usually overlooked moments with unexpected grandeur. A quiet humor is employed in service of her twin gifts, imagination and metaphor. This is an accomplished, deft, and important debut.”—Beth Ann Fennelly, author of Tender Hooks and judge

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