Waters Chairs National Book Awards Poetry Judging Panel
SALISBURY, MD---“The judges for the 2004 Award in Poetry read almost 200 books deeply and passionately,” Dr. Michael Waters, Salisbury University English professor, told the glittering audience of New York literati assembled at the Marriott Marquis ballroom. “The books ranged wildly in their styles and concerns ….”
Waters, who shared the podium with Garrison Keillor, host of The 55th National Book Awards, had chaired the poetry panel, which did the rewarding if intense work of reading, evaluating and winnowing. Each member of the committee read all 200 volumes and committee members were engaged in conversations over several months. According to National Book Foundation rules, they were not allowed to select the winner, however, until a private luncheon the afternoon of the ceremony--a safeguard for confidentiality.
That evening Waters thanked his fellow judges, Lynn Emanuel, James Galvin, Naomi Shihab Nye and Al Young, and praised all five finalists before honoring Jean Valentine for Door in the Mountain. The award included a $10,000 prize.
Waters’ brief comments on the state of American poetry as a reflection of American life were captured by C-Span: “I won’t say they (the final selections) were diverse—a terrible pun in any case—of course they were. Let’s give the word ‘diversity,’ now and in perpetuity, to the literary marketeers. Simply to say that our literature is American is to mean that it makes use of an idiom constantly in flux—Walt Whitman’s ‘blab of the pave’—and ever inclusive. To see democracy at work, especially these days, one has only to look down, at the page, where our great political experiment still flourishes, and where our literary tradition deepens, and resonates, and still refuses to be polite.”
The acclaimed SU poet is the author of eight volumes of poetry and winner of three Pushcart prizes. He is editor of the Eighth Edition of Contemporary American Poetry. This semester he is Stadler Poet-in-Residence at Bucknell University, and MFA Poet-in-Residence at Penn State University the week of February 14. In April Waters will be featured poet along with Marilyn Nelson at the “Mapping American Space” Conference at the University of Toulouse, France. He also will read at The New School in Manhattan that month.
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