The Lenore Marshall Prize

By McClatchy, J. D. | The Nation, October 25, 1986 | Go to article overview

The Lenore Marshall Prize


McClatchy, J. D., The Nation


The Lenore Marshall Prize

There were nearly 150 books for the judges to sift through this year. Three of them were by former winners, and the list of finalists read like an honor roll of contemporary American poets. In the end, the judges were unanimous in their choice of Howard Moss to receive the 1986 Lenore Marshall Prize. Their decision is meant to single out a book of exceptional merit, and also to honor a body of work four decades in the making.

New Selected Poems is not just a collection of superb work. It is a long look at a career that has unfolded in surprising ways, and without the kind of critical recognition that has sustained others. The urbane but astringent lyricism of Moss's first book, The Wound and the Weather (1946), heralded a distinctive voice. Over the next forty years and in ten subsequent books, culminating in this definitive selection from them all, Moss has refined and darkened that voice. Without sacrificing the wit and rhythmic finesse that characterized his poems from the start, he has come to write with a more searching complexity or with a more startling simplicity as his subject demands, and everywhere his poems speak eloquently of the wounds of experience, the weather of the spirit.

In his essay "The Poet's Voice,' Moss once identified the problem of establishing a human voice for itself as a central theme in the poetry of the last half-century. Art is a civilized, not a natural phenomenon, and there will always be a "pull between speech and eloquence . . . how to speak in the name of something real without being merely commonplace.' To solve this problem, Moss himself has never sought--as so many others have--a temporarily striking fashion. He is not ornate or homely, journalistic or swaggering or surreal. He never preens: his poetry is neither a public platform nor a private salvation. Instead, he has cultivated the gift of a true style, a manner of heightened but human speaking that is as unique as a voiceprint.

We recognize a Howard Moss poem at once. It never fakes a pleasure or an insight. It does not pretend to emotions it does not feel. Though he can make phrases with the best, as when he calls Venetian palazzi "spun-stone' or Jackson Pollock's paintings "wounded linoleums,' his rhetoric is calculated not to impress but to confide and suggest, ponder and console. And especially in his later books, it is charged with a poignant wisdom and rare feeling.

Moss speaks in a quiet tone of voice, and sometimes an elusive one. One must listen attentively--too great a demand on many readers today. He knows "how much restraint/Enhances skill,' and how the poet can "sometimes sound the depths/With the lightest touch.' His is the style of the reflective intelligence: a sea surface, as he writes in "Bay Days,' "Currents, always running, gauged to light/And wind, the depths varying the colors.' He is not a discursive poet, but one for whom thinking and sensibility command the same impulses:

What are ideas but architecture

Taking nature to heart and sustaining

Invioable forms: the fleur-de-lis,

The subtle acanthus, the shell-like dominions

Of diamond accretions royal on coal,

The Gothic tower and the rabbit warren,

The fine interchange of matter and matter,

The natural and social shiftings in the bonds

Of dialogues and elegies that rise from soil. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Lenore Marshall Prize
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.