Magazine article The Nation

Prizewinning Poets - 1986

Magazine article The Nation

Prizewinning Poets - 1986

Article excerpt

Prizewinning Poets--1986

The winners of Discovery--The Nation, '86 are Jessica Greenbaum, Daniel Hall, Brigit Pegeen Kelly and Alexander Thorburn. They will read their poems on Monday, April 28, at 8:15 P.M., at The Poetry Center, 92nd Street YM-YWHA in New York City. The contest was judged by Alfred Corn, Rachel Hadas and Susan Mitchell. Now in its twelfth year, the competition combines The Poetry Center's Discovery contest and The Nation's poetry prize. It is open to poets who have not published in book form.


Painted white and with a black roof, our house is a nun separated from its neighbors.

But I can never be sure it will be above me when I wake.

Sometimes, I find myself lying under the stars the house to one side like a bed I've fallen from. Covered with dew and in my pajamas, I open the door and go back inside.

The landscape seeps through the sides of our house, a lush, rustling paper that covers the walls. Birds call, and a stream runs from right to left.

To be ill is wonderful, to lie listening on a bed as a lawnmower sprays grass against the screen, to have an ache to raise up to the world's ache and to whisper, "I hold myself softly in the palm of my hand, this is me' as a grandmother enters and gently uncurls my fingers from a pillow.

Or else the house slips over me as I walk along the street. I begin to feel it, small as a knapsack on my back. My head and neck protrude from it like a turtle's. Frightened, I walk into its sides. They bulge out elastically, and as I flail I leave the slowly disappearing imprint of my form in one wall.

The house is woven into a tapestry I reach my hand from, afraid I will tear its cloth.

Alexander Thorburn


The mule that lived on the road where I was married would bray to wake the morning, but could not wake me. How many summers I slept lost in my hair. How many mules on how many hills singing. Back of a deep ravine he lived, above a small river on a beaten patch of land. I walked up in the day and walked down, having been given nothing else to do. The road grew no longer, I grew no wiser, my husband was always selling things to people who buy. He went up the road, too, but the road was full of doors for him, the road was his belt and, one notch at a time, he loosened it on his way. I would sit on the hill of stones and look down on the trees, on the lake far away with its boats and those who ride in boats and I could not pray. Some of us have mule minds, are foolish as sails whipping in the wind, senseless as sheets rolling through the fields, some of us are not given even a wheel of a tinker's cart upon which to pray. When I came back I pumped water in the yard under the trees by the fence where the cows came up, but water is not wisdom and change is not made by wishes. Else I would have ridden something, even a mule, over those hills and away.

Brigit Pegeen Kelly


Suddenly a bass jumped from the water and swallowed the hummingbird.

--Mary E. Lockwood, in Bent's Life Histories

I'd always denied you the mere existence granted other birds, never really believing in either the highly abstract idea of a bird, or the bee-shaped aerobatic bit of matter--

I'd overestimated you. …

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