Ask a Longlister: Is there a sentence you would consider living in?

We asked the poets longlisted for the 2021 Book Awards some questions about their writing lives, inspirations and -of course – poetry. Read on for their thoughts and stay tuned as we reveal more questions and responses from our esteemed 2021 Book Awards Poets up until the winner’s announcement on May 6, 2021.

Is there a sentence (from your own work or another’s) you would consider living in?

 

Kama La Mackerel

“My family is illiterate. I was the first to read and write. I was not the first poet.”
–Ocean Vuong

Kama La Mackerel’s ZOM-FAM (Metonymy Press, 2020) is longlisted for the 2021 Gerald Lampert Award.

Canisia Lubrin

“I don’t want to live in any sentence.”

Canisia Lubrin’s The Dyzgraphxst (McClelland & Stewart, 2020) is longlisted for the 2021 Raymond Souster Award and Pat Lowther Memorial Award.

 

Meredith Quartermain

“I often recall Robin Blaser telling me: go toward what you love, not what you despise.”

Meredith Quartermain’s Lullabies in the Real World (NeWest Press, 2020) is longlisted for the 2021 Raymond Souster Award.

 

Joel Robert Ferguson

“Obsessed, bewildered// By the shipwreck/ Of the singular// We have chosen the meaning/ Of being numerous.” (from “Of Being Numerous” by George Oppen)

Joel Robert Ferguson’s The Lost Cafeteria (Signature Editions, 2020) is longlisted for the 2021 Gerald Lampert Award.

 

Tamar Rubin

“Be glad,” she said,
“that God has given you
fifty years in this world” —
though she didn’t know
there is no division
between, as I see it,
my days that have passed
and Noah’s
of which I’ve heard.
In the world I have nothing
but the hour I’m in,
which stands for moment,
and then like a cloud moves on.

-Shmuel HaNagid

Tamar Rubin’s Tablet Fragments (Signature Editions, 2020) is longlisted for the 2021 Gerald Lampert Award.

 

Jessica Moore

I love this question and cannot choose just one. These are two I return to over and over:

“All the being and the doing, expansive, glittering, vocal, evaporated; and one shrunk, with a sense of solemnity, to being oneself, a wedge-shaped core of darkness, something invisible to others.”

–Virginia Woolf

“The only image of this happiness, the only contraband I could smuggle back across the frontier of full wakefulness, was not an image of myself—for that surely did not exist on the other side of the frontier—but an image of something akin to myself: the flat surface of a rock, a stone over which a skin of water flowed continuously.”

–John Berger

And, from my own book:
“Will you seize the brass handle and knock on the door of your own life?”

Jessica Moore’s The Whole Singing Ocean (Nightwood Editions, 2020) is longlisted for the 2021 Raymond Souster Award.

 

Jennifer Hosein

“…my mother’s black coat/against the winter-white paysage/is always/and only home…”

Jennifer Hosein’s A Map of Rain Days (Guernica Editions, 2020) is longlisted for the 2021 Pat Lowther Memorial Award.

 

Yusuf Saadi

“Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.”

Yusuf Saadi’s Pluviophile (Nightwood Editions, 2020) is longlisted for the 2021 Gerald Lampert Award.

 

Lisa Richter

“I’m going to cheat and pick two, one for my summer home, the other for my winter: “nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands” (e.e. cummings), and from Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art”: “the art of losing’s not too hard to master / though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.”

Lisa Richter’s Nautilus and Bone (Frontenac House, 2020) is longlisted for the 2021 Raymond Souster Award.