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2010 Prize For Poetry Awards

We are pleased to announce that the 2010 Robinson Jeffers Tor House Prize for Poetry, an honorarium of $1,000, is awarded to:

Jude Nutter
Edina, Minnesota
for her poem
"Legacy”
 

Honorable Mentions, each with an honorarium of $200, are awarded to:

Andrew C. Gottlieb
Irvine, California
for his poem
"Beauty, or a Science of Movement”
 
Meredith Davies Hadaway
Chestertown, Maryland
for her poem
"Hall of Records”
 
Bradford Winters
New York, New York
for his poem
"Immigration & Naturalization”
 

Final judge for the 2010 competition was poet Mark Doty.

The annual Robinson Jeffers Tor House Prize for Poetry is established as a living memorial in honor of American poet Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962).  The Prize is underwritten by Tor House Foundation Board member John Varady with additional support from Honorary Board Member Allen Mears.  This year we received over 1,800 poems from 44 states, Puerto Rico and six foreign countries.

The 2010 Prize Winning Poem and Honorable Mentions will be posted soon, along with information about the poets.

Prize winners for past years can be viewed on-line:

2009 Poetry Prize winners
2008 Poetry Prize winners
2007 Poetry Prize winners
2006 Poetry Prize winners
2005 Poetry Prize winners
2004 Poetry Prize winners
2003 Poetry Prize winners
2002 Poetry Prize winners
2001 Poetry Prize winners

 

The 2010 Prize Winning Poem

Legacy
Jude Nutter

…one of those long mornings in childhood
which may or may not have existed
in a time you no longer remember
but where all that you
now fear or love
began

                   ~Kerry Hardie

Death, wrote Wittgenstein, is not an event
of life; it cannot be lived through.  He meant,
of course, our own dying, because death
simply keeps happening and it keeps on happening 

somewhere else, until the moment it doesn't.
I admit I have no evidence but a memory
of waking into darkness and the high-
strung acoustics of surprise and panic, but last night,

I am certain, a predator opened up a body
smaller than its own in the woods.  And, as easily
as this, I am thinking of a certain summer
morning in childhood when I woke early

and navigated from room to room, drinking
the ice melt and dregs from glasses,
wandering through the debris of the party
my parents had thrown the night before.

An earring, a lighter, a sequined purse;
plump welts of lipstick on the rims of glasses
that made me think of those men I'd seen
in Valencia, forearms strung with bruises, heaving

squid from their boats to the dock,
of how their bodies had filled me with nostalgia
for things that had not yet happened.  And there
I was, then, twelve years old and drunk

before breakfast, walking outside into a summer
morning to find the gods had arrived before me.
God of summer snow and laburnum.  God
of the gutter where the best things gathered: condoms

and marbles and the casings of pens, a beetle
submerged beneath a wash of ants.  God of ants.
God of frog skins—empty, all rind—
flat and rigid like the soles of shoes.

Small god of grass cuts and of heather,
of white noise  in the undergrowth
where thistles bloomed.  God of what I believed
to be a stone and its shadow two feet away

in a bowl of flattened grass, but which turned,
as gods will, into a body, its short fur hardened
and spiked by saliva; blood darkening
to tar among the grass blades, and a slack circle

of flesh and pelt and a wink of bone
where the head had been.  I was familiar with bones
that walked away from the body, bones
that had been alone for a long time

and had taken on a white and insular identity; but here
were bones still varnished with the caul
of the body, and what I'd believed to be
the white noise of the world were yellow jackets 

drawn to the meat.  For a while it rested there
in the grass, harmless as a mitten or a slipper,
and it was good, for a while, to gaze
on death and fail to know it for what it was until

the tube of my gullet buckled and my mouth,
of is own accord, yawned open.  All I had
in me to give, I gave—burn of alcohol and bile.
It does not matter that I can't name

a single predator that would steal the useless
lockbox of a rabbit's head and leave the solid
meat of the body behind.  God
of the muscled lash of the flesh—the way you

are always with us and constantly leaving.
And memory is selective. And we become
what we remember.  And what matters
is how a whole life

can come down to a single morning in summer;
to such singing in the grass.  What matters
is the way I choose to remember it; the words
I offer to the undamaged tongue of the page:
            Small flask of the uncorked body.
            Fat wasps drinking at the rim.

 

Jude Nutter was born in North Yorkshire, England, and grew up in northern Germany.  Her poems have appeared in numerous national and international journals.  She is the recipient of several awards and grants including two Minnesota State Arts Grants, A McKnight Fellowship, the Robinson Jeffers Tor House Prize, the Listowel Prize (Ireland), the Larry Levis Prize, the International War Poetry Award, The Marjorie J. Wilson Award for Excellence in Poetry, the Lynda Hull Memorial Poetry Prize and the Missouri Review Editors' Prize.  Her first book-length collection, Pictures of the Afterlife (Salmon Poetry, Ireland), was published in 2002.  The Curator of Silence (University of Notre Dame Press), her second collection, won the Ernest Sandeen Prize from the University of Notre Dame and was awarded the 2007 Minnesota Book Award in Poetry.  A third collection,  I Wish I Had A Heart Like Yours, Walt Whitman (University of Notre Dame Press), was awarded the 2010 Minnesota Book Award in Poetry.  In 2004/2005 she spent two months in Antarctica as a participant in the National Science Foundation's Writers and Artists Program.  She has been living and working in Minneapolis since 1998.

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Honorable Mentions

Beauty, or a Science of Movement
Andrew C. Gottlieb

It's not just for the driving, but the yearning to return
to the long highway, two-lane
through ranch land rising into moraine,
the earth's thick sloping limbs that survey
the whole journey; I'm not there
but want to be to see the antelope,
the whole tawny idea of approaching the flexure
of legs, of finding something so wild
that twice like this never exists,
but being the victim of it once makes you suffer
with repetitive begging inside,
the kind of thing that lets you lie
all day to survive the pedestrian taunting
of email replies, the drive to work, accountability,
and always the goddamn questions of weather,
the addressing of each small paving stone
you place only to try to counter
imminent chaos—you think of the earth's surface,
the massive declivities, insistent volcanoes,
consistent spew of variables in the glacial equation
of geologic change, the immane tonnage, the gallons,
the light years—while inside, it's the road,
the antelope, the moment where there are long bare
reaches of animal option and promise.
I am here, and always a road is not a point
but a going, a creature sort of like light:  a particle
and a wave immeasurable, really, while it's happening,
the journey only visible from the symptoms
on some end paper showing shadows and patterns,
suggestions of what mystery really occurred, what magic
collided and collapsed to later cause this pain.

The black-eyed herd reclining in fallow grassland,
soil yellowed by afternoon sun,
and there are two directions
where I am: the road lining off
to a far horizon, and where I've come from,
that place were I believe it was all okay;
but I think, I could run this way too,
I should step into this dust and run,
the way the herd does when I stop the car
because pronghorn know something about sound
and closeness, and they won't let it happen;
and I can't stop them, and everything is so far away,
and I'll want it back, this sejant-erect
idea that guides my understanding, this human
failing that is pain and the drive to feel it
again and again, to have the moment last
rather than transfer itself to memory
and that yearning, the weakness that pulls me back
from the now to the herd, to their leaving: white stripes
hurdling cattle fences in slow, easy leaps.
They take it all with them, distance eclipsing
what I thought I had and what is already gone,
what has become a measurement and a guessing,
the road and the antelope, mammalian sorrow
fossilized no matter how we dress it or where we go.
Evolution: call it love, call it loss, even hope.
It's resistance to motion and the sadness of nouns.
I am grappling with a road I once traveled
and, quite literally, the only physics I know. 

 

Andrew C. Gottlieb currently lives and writes in Irvine, California.  His fiction and poetry have appeared in many journals including the American Literary Review, Beloit Fiction Journal, DIAGRAM, Ecotone, ISLE, Provincetown Arts, Poets & Writers, Portland Review, and Terrain.org.  His chapbook of poems, Halflives, was published in 2005 by New Michigan Press.  In recent years, he's been the writer-in-residence at Isle Royale National Park, the Montana Artists Refuge, and the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts.

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Hall of Records
Meredith Davies Hadaway

Somewhere in a strange city,
my father cradled me in one arm while
gesticulating to the man in charge of records:

a birth—to write it down.

He'd always said we should go back there.
As if it proved that once and far away
we'd been part of the same enterprise.

Ecco! the man had said, as he clambered
backward down the metal stair gripping
a leather volume.

We talked about it often—priced
the tickets—but never made the trip.

Somewhere in a city with two
castles, my parents are still in love.

Ledgers lean against each other in the dust.
On a wooden counter pages spread
against the spine to admit a foreign name.

Two men witness.  One enunciating every
consonant and vowel as he engraves them

into air, the other dipping a pen in black
ink to scratch out a few more characters.

Somewhere in a strange city,
this is recorded.

 

Meredith Davies Hadaway is the author of Fishing Secrets of the Dead (Word Press, 2005) and The River is a Reason (forthcoming from Word Press, 2011).  Her poems and book reviews have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Apalachee Review, Stand, Cincinnati Review, Harpur Palate, Atlanta Review, and Poetry International.  She serves as poetry editor for The Summerset Review as well as chief marketing officer for Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland.

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Immigration & Naturalization
                               for T.L.S.
Bradford Winters

My first day here I learned how to say Thank you.
Thank you
, I said again and again, amazed that this alone

was enough to get by.  My second day I called home
to tell them I had made it.  About life in lockstep and

my unspeakable regime, there is little you should know
save I escaped by waiting.  If I swam, then with hands

in my lap like an oarlock; if I ran, then sitting still
for moonlight to find me.  At the border I heard voices

from the wheel well of my ear, sent the way of freight
on oceans I am for the most part.  Thus smuggled at last

to the city I fled, I have come, of all places, to recovery
of the commonplace: chilled grapes when we wake

and the smell of her shampoo trailing Rostropovich,
nights without plans besides a walk around the block

when dinner is done and the kitchen clean.  This side
of that tunnel where snowfall in the trees on Waverly

seemed to lead nowhere but work, I look back at white
blossoms falling instead.  If I must learn a new language

it is one I have known, in which present however trite
means today is a gift.  Forgive me.  I know this is not

the way to present oneself, as the price for passage
has yet to be disclosed, and the baggage always more

than one planned to bring.  Sooner or later, the customs
catch up with you.  But love finds everything to declare

there is nothing outside its domain.  Thank you, I say
night after night, every time that moonlit coastline

appears inches from mine in a walk-up on Union Street.

 

Bradford Winters is a writer and producer in television whose work has ranged from HBO's award-winning series, Oz, to the more recent Kings on NBC.  Based in New York City where he's been with The Levinson/Fontana Company for the past twelve years, he is currently developing an original drama series called Americatown, about a far-flung enclave of American immigrants in the near future.  His poems and essays have appeared in such journals as Image and Spoon River Poetry Review, and he is a regular contributor to the "Good Letters” blog at the Image website.

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