Tuesday, January 19, 2010

And the Winner IS.....


Yes, Philip Gross won the T.S. Eliot Prize, the UK’s most lucrative prize for poetry, for his book "The Water Table," beating out two past winners and, the only American on the 10-poet shortlist, Sharon Olds.

All the reports I’ve read comment on his veritable anonymity though he is the author of six (6!) books of poetry as well as ten (10!) novels for young adults. Though I do own one of his books, I admit I am not a close follower. Doesn’t Mr. Gross look a bit like one of those garden gnomes? But then I say that about a lot of middle-aged English men. I think it’s the teeth.

But, back to Gross, here's a sample of his work. It's not from his latest book, but one I like.

The Key to the Kingdom

It's not exile, homes and families behind
us, where we meet. It happens anywhere,
now: a stateless
state of no name, quietly seceding
from the crumbling empires round us,

without stamps or Eurovision entries.
No-one does it with a rough guide in a week.
You inhabit it
or nothing. Like this: in a pavement cafe
you blink and you seem to surprise them,

the crowd, all its separate faces at once,
coming out of solution like crystals,
like a rush of starlings
or the breeze that lifts the canvas awning
now and dents your cappuccino froth

with a crisp little sound. And that's it:
between breaths, just between you and me
as if; yes,
QED. You are received. This is
the freedom of the city, and the key

to the kingdom, and its borders ripple
outwards like a frill of breaking wave
onto flat sand,
a wavering line already fading leaving
spume-flecks high and dry,

a prickling on your palm; you're five
years old, looking up at the whole sea,
will you laugh or cry?

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