University of South Carolina Press

South Carolina Poetry Book Prize

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South Carolina Poetry Book Prize

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Driving through the Country before You Are Born

Ray McManus

Selected by Kate Daniels as the winner of the South Carolina Poetry Book Prize, Driving through the Country before You Are Born is the first collection of poetry from Ray McManus. The speaker in these poems searches for redemption and solace while navigating from a traumatic loss in the past to a present fraught with violence and self-destruction. The volume chronicles his attempt to glean some measure of forgiveness through acceptance of his own responsibly for his circumstances. The reader is called on to witness family stories without happy endings, landscapes on the verge of collapse, and prophetic visions of horrors yet to come. From these haunting visions, the only viable salvation is rooted in hope that, out of the ruins, there remains the possibility of a fresh beginning.

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Green Revolver

Worthy Evans

Selected by David Baker, Green Revolver is the fifth annual winner of the South Carolina Poetry Book Prize and the first published collection by Worthy Evans. These verses resulted from a spontaneous outpouring of poems, pent up during a fourteen-year hiatus from the craft during which Evans worked as a professional reporter, writer, and editor. Much informed by the rapid-fire pace and cadence of his journalism background, Evans's narrative poems are grounded in concrete images of our shared reality and explore a range of imaginative versions of the poet as confident or frightened, loving or hateful, bold or timid, lost or profound. These poems seek a distinguishing personal truth—a sense of belonging in a world not altogether welcoming, or even that familiar, where violent impulses are as threatening as workday drudgery. In these daydreams given form, Henry Fonda wields the same authority as Henry V or Ward Cleaver. In this landscape where the familiar arches longingly toward the surreal, a cockeyed visionary might just find the right fantasy with which to escape the stultifying confinement of banal modernity, as represented by corporate office space and khaki dress slacks, army motor pools and basic training maneuvers, sprawling cityscapes and the omnipresent pestering responsibilities of adulthood in postmillennial America.

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Hold Like Owls

Julia Koets

Selected by 2011 National Book Award winner Nikky Finney as the seventh annual winner of the South Carolina Poetry Book Prize, Hold Like Owls is the first book-length collection from Julia Koets. Full of imagery deeply embedded in memories of growing up in the American South, Koets explores what it means to hold—to carry memories—and what to hold onto and what to let go. Birds turn into paper, a voice fits inside a chestnut shell, and moths eat stars through a woolen sky as the collection evokes nuance within the ordinary, reframes childhood memory, and engages the themes of the night, sensuality, and desire. Whether questioning personal histories, language, sexual identity, or love, the collection honors the "gentle corners of the night" that allow for questioning and uncertainty to exist.

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How God Ends Us

DéLana R. A. Dameron

DéLana R. A. Dameron searches for answers to spiritual quandaries in her first collection of poems, How God Ends Us, selected by Elizabeth Alexander as the fourth annual winner of the South Carolina Poetry Book Prize. Dameron's poetry forms a lyrical conversation with an ominous and omnipotent deity, one who controls all matters of the living earth, including death and destruction. The poet's acknowledgement of the breadth of this power under divine jurisdiction moves her by turns to anger, grief, celebration, and even joy. From personal to collective to imagined histories, Dameron's poems explore essential, perennial questions emblemized by natural disasters, family struggles, racism, and the experiences of travel abroad. Though she reaches for conclusions that cannot be unveiled, her investigations exhibit the creative act of poetry as a source of consolation and resolution.

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Keep and Give Away

Susan Meyers

Keep and Give Away was selected by Terrance Hayes as the inaugural winner of the South Carolina Poetry Book Prize sponsored by the South Carolina Poetry Initiative. In her first full-length collection, Susan Meyers guides us through her examination of life's ordinary moments and the seemingly ordinary images that abide in them to reveal the extraordinary. From minutia to marriage, crumbs to crows, nothing is too commonplace to escape her attention as she traverses terrains of childhood, loss, relationships, and death. Mostly lyrical and often elegiac, the poems of Keep and Give Away move along the rifts between the past and present, the lived and desired. The dominant emotions of the verses are deepened by observations rooted in our natural world, where birds are "yeses quickening the air" and the sky can "lap you up, and up." In the book's final section, marriage poems turn to fishing and gardening for their truths, contemplations that recognize the realities of a world governed by luck, imperfection, contraries, and—most of all—love.

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Signals

Ed Madden

Selected by Afaa Weaver as the third annual winner of the South Carolina Poetry Book Prize, Signals is the first book-length collection from Ed Madden. Deeply rooted in the recognizable landscapes and legacies of the American South, these lyric poems couple daring engagements in topics of race and sexuality with tender reflections on personal and cultural histories. Madden's adopted home of South Carolina rises to the surface in poems set at Folly Beach, Fort Moultrie, Lake Keowee, and Middleton Place. His interrogations of social oppression conjure the ubiquitous iconography of the bygone Confederacy, a first encounter with the miniseries Roots, and a cameo appearance by Strom Thurmond. In the collection's central section, Madden turns to issues of sexual difference, community formation, and the place of gay men in contemporary Southern culture. Throughout Madden repeatedly turns to the artifacts that demarcate his memories of youth in the rural South to ask how we define home, how we form meaning out of the silences and losses of the past, and what rituals and relationships might sustain us as we inch forward across a rough terrain of shifting emotional and moral challenges.

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