Deadline for submission of 2012 books is January 31, 2013.
See GUIDELINES below.
PRESS RELEASE : SPRING 2012
The Poetry Center is pleased to announce that Khaled Mattawa's TOQUEVILLE (New Issues Poetry and Prose, Western Michigan University, 2010) has been selected by award judge Ravi Shankar to receive the annual Poetry Center Book Award.
The Poetry Center Book Award has been presented annually by The Poetry Center, San Francisco State University since 1980 to a single outstanding book of poetry published in the previous year. The Poetry Center Book Award carries a cash prize and an invitation to read, along with the award judge, at The Poetry Center in San Francisco.
• Thursday MARCH 29
Poetry Center Book Award Reading
Khaled Mattawa and Ravi Shankar
4:30 pm @ the Poetry Center
HUM 512, SFSU, free
Ravi Shankar on Khaled Mattawa’s Tocqueville:
As Alexis de Tocqueville, referenced in Mattawa’s title, has written, “history is a gallery of pictures in which there are few originals and many copies.” Mattawa's book is one of these true originals that substantially deepens our notion of what a poem can do and what shape it might take.
In the long title sequence, “Tocqueville,” Mattawa invents a new form that partakes of the postmodern impulse towards pastiche but reconfigures this by taking the actual oral histories of a group of Somali citizens from Mogadishu and juxtaposing excerpts from their stories alongside allusions and quotations from such folks as Edward Said, Homi Bhabha, Walt Whitman,Vijay Prashad, and of course Alexis de Tocqueville. What emerges, incredibly, is not a disparate hodgepodge but a remarkably moving document that ranges across history and lyric, confession and epistle, to point at the ways in which American democracy is complicit in the suffering being manifest in the far reaches of the globe, that there is no workable rhetoric of “us” versus “them,” but simply vectors of power and capital that run resistance to our shared humanity.
In other poems, such as the ones entitled “Power Point,” Mattawa again stretches the possibilities of form, using the language of film (flashbacks, cuts, exterior and pan shots), unseen visual representations (“insert Image here”), along with tables and charts that delve into the human psyche (including the brilliant grief, consolation, reverence and redemption matrices which use quasi-scientific taxonomy to penetrate the ideologies of abstraction on a case-by-case basis). It's rare to encounter such experimental and avant-garde poems that deepen in signification, emotion, and paradoxically in legibility because of the radical techniques being deployed.
Finally what is most striking about this collection is the way it literalizes Walter Benjamin’s notion of the angel of history, turned towards the past but propelled towards the future, a place where culture is not national but global, where American society is not insulated from the rest of the world, but part and parcel of it, and where readers of poetry take responsibility for cultivating a greater social consciousness, all the while innovating with form and introducing elements from technology and the media that have seldom had a place in contemporary poetry. There’s an urgency to Mattawa's poems that's tempered by a lyricism that asserts “somewhere beyond faith and grace there is / the footprint of logic lost in the purest light.”
This is a book of extraordinary courage, that helps give voice to the voiceless and that sees, even in those we would demonize as terrorists, a shared destiny. For all of its ambition, innovation, and empathy, Khaled Mattawa's Tocqueville is a stunning collection of verse that by utilizing the tools of modernity helps us construe where we are, how we arrived, and where we can go from here.
In addition to the winning book I'd like to highlight the following outstanding collections, as runners up:
Lynn Emanuel, Noose and Hook (University of Pittsburgh Press)
Tom Yuill, Medicine Show (University of Chicago Press)
KHALED MATTAWA was born in Benghazi, Libya, in 1964 and immigrated to the United States in 1979. He received an MFA in creative writing from Indiana University and a Ph.D from Duke University. Mattawa is the author of four books of poetry, Tocqueville (New Issues Press, 2010), Amorisco (Ausable Press, 2008), Zodiac of Echoes (Ausable Press, 2003) and Ismailia Eclipse (Sheep Meadow Press, 1996). He has translated nine books of contemporary Arabic poetry by Adonis, Saadi Youssef, Fadhil Al-Azzawi, Hatif Janabi, Maram Al-Massri, Joumana Haddad, Amjad Nasser, and Iman Mersal, and has co-edited two anthologies of Arab American literature.
Mattawa’s latest volume of poetry Tocqueville (New Issues Poetry and Prose, Western Michigan University, 2010) won the 2011 Poetry Center Book Award, selected by Ravi Shankar, as well as the Arab American National Book Award. His translation of Adonis’s Selected Poems won the PEN USA Center annual poetry in translation prize. He is a currently associate professor of English at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
RAVI SHANKAR is the founding editor and Executive Director of Drunken Boat, one of the world's oldest electronic journals of the arts. He has published or edited seven books and chapbooks of poetry, including the 2010 National Poetry Review Prize winner, Deepening Groove. Along with Tina Chang and Nathalie Handal, he edited W.W. Norton's Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from Asia, the Middle East & Beyond, called “a beautiful achievement for world literature” by Nobel Laureate Nadine Gordimer. He has won a Pushcart Prize, been featured in The New York Times and the Chronicle of Higher Education, appeared as a commentator on the BBC and NPR, received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony and the Connecticut Commission on the Arts, and has performed his work around the world. He is currently Chairman of the Connecticut Young Writers Trust, on the faculty of the first international MFA Program at City University of Hong Kong and an Associate Professor of English at CCSU.
The Poetry Center Book Award
The Poetry Center Book Award has been presented annually since 1980 by The Poetry Center, San Francisco State University, to a single outstanding book of poetry published in the prior year. The Poetry Center Book Award carries a cash prize and an invitation to read, along with the award judge, at The Poetry Center in San Francisco.
POETRY CENTER BOOK AWARD, 1980-2010.
The Poetry Center at San Francisco State University seeks submissions for the annual Poetry Center Book Award.
Deadline for submission of 2012 books is January 31, 2013.
Entrees will be accepted for the 2012 award from JULY 1, 2012 thru JANUARY 31, 2013.
Published original books by a single author (no collaborative works, anthologies, translations, or manuscripts) must be copyrighted 2012. Entrees can be submitted by publisher, author, or by a reader.
An entry fee of $10 per book (all of which goes directly to the benefit of the award winner and award judge) must accompany each book.
Please include a cover letter indicating the author's name, book title(s), name of person or publisher issuing check, and check number.
Checks should be payable to The Poetry Center and entrees mailed to:
The Poetry Center/SFSU
2010 Book Award
1600 Holloway Avenue
San Francisco CA 94132
The judge for the award will not be announced in advance.