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The National Book Awards 2021 longlist: Poetry

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The National Book Awards 2021 longlist: Poetry

This week, The New Yorker announced the longlists for the National Book Awards 2021. We presented Wednesday’s lists for youth literature as well as translated literature. For nonfiction, check back this afternoon.

Forrest Gander’s poem Post-Fire Forest, published in the New Yorker last Spring, contains a moment when the speaker tries finding the right word for the scene he is seeing as he walks through the burned forest. The wasteland seems to speak with an unalienable clarity, which robs of insincerity and insignificance. “What / what remains in the forest takes place/in exclamation mode,” writes he. “Slagged/utterances in an tongue from which everything trivial was evaporated,/ everything trivial to flame.” The crisis is a challenge for the human observer.

“Post-Fire Forest” appears in the “Twice Alive” collection, which was nominated for this year’s National Book Award in Poetry. “Twice Alive,” one of many nominees, examines the human side of global and environmental disasters. Jackie Wang’s “The Sunflower Cast a Spell to Save Us from the Void”, inspired by the author’s dreams, examines how crises and trauma can infiltrate the subconscious. Martín Espada’s “Floaters” criticizes the government’s neglect of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria and the cruelty faced by migrants from Latin America.

This list was created from two hundred ninety submissions from publishers. Gander is the only nominee previously recognized by the National Book Awards; the other nine contenders will be honored for the first time. You can see the full list below.

Threa Almontaser, “The wild fox of Yemen”
Gray Wolf Press

Baba Badji, “Ghost Letters”
Salon press

Desiree C. Bailey, “What a noise against the stick”
Yale University Press

CM Burroughs, “Master suffering”
Tupelo press

Andrés Cerpa, “The bunker”
Alice James books

Martin sword, “Swimmer”
WW Norton & Company

Forest Gander, “Twice Alive”
New directions

Douglas Kearney, “Already”
Wave books

Hoa Nguyen, “A thousand times you will lose your treasure”
Wave books

Jackie Wang, “The sunflower cast a spell to save us from the void”
Night boat books

This year’s judges for this category are A. Van Jordan, Professor of the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan and author of several books of poetry, including Rise; Don Mee Choi, whose book “DMZ Colony” won the National Book Award for Poetry 2020; Natalie Diaz, the author of When My Brother Was An Aztec and Postcolonial Love Poem; Matthea Harvey, author of five volumes of poetry, including “Modern Life”; and Ilya Kaminsky, the author of Deaf Republic.

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