Follow the link, below, for the full list of finalists!
The finalists for the 2015 National Book Awards in poetry are a diverse group in both subject and approach. The winner of the $10,000 prize will be announced in New York on Wednesday.
Terrance Hayes’s “How to be Drawn” (Penguin; paperback, $20) is the challenging follow-up to “Lighthead,” which won the 2010 National Book Award. In this, his fifth collection, Hayes examines perception — how we see and are seen — through a variety of lenses that reveal the realities of life for black Americans. The work opens with a warning: “Never mistake what it is for what it looks like.” In the pieces that follow, the speaker refuses to be silenced or to let any point of view be denied. The tone swings from pensive to mocking to outraged as the writing draws on history, artists — including Walt Whitman and Vladimir Mayakovsky — and a variety of tools and formats (maps, photographs, police reports) to convey insights about how language and behavior define, trap or erase. Some of the strongest writing comes when the speaker summons the ghosts of lynching victims, elicits rich sounds from a piano or considers the power of images in the lovely poem “Self-Portrait as the Mind of a Camera.” There, he explains, “Camera, you really have to love us/ To keep us from disappearing. Bodies of solar-powered soul,/ Most of what we know of the past we know because of you.”