Award Winners

Robert H. Winner Memorial Award - 2007

Charlene Fix


There's logic to the scene. The man
whose bones are currency, whose scalp
was born divorced, grins at the little girl
filling his knuckly resurrected hands
with flowers. His eyes, hosed to heart, mist.
"Boat," she says, tossing one, then another, plop,
to the water's brink. Oiled like ducks and
splayed like little suns, they float. And his brain
struggling against worm damage and
unaccustomed thoughts, his cold entropic nature
warming at the fire of the child, he falls into giddiness.
So he lifts her in his arms. What can he gather
himself together to know? She's flower, light.
Light glances off the water. Flowers float.

Eleanor Wilner on Charlene Fix

What drew me to the poems of Charlene Fix was, above all, their largeness of spirit, their wise intelligence, their delightful and urbane humor at the follies of our kind, and their fine ear for a cadenced, resonant free verse. Few poets can be genuinely funny, and, at the same time, sympathetic in the face of an acute awareness that sharpens the wit. I admired her refusal to be pious about subjects before which so many lower their voices and look mournful; she proved incapable of that secret ego ascension that aggrandizes victimhood, whereas, bypassing that indulgence, she reveals the unlikely miracle of human self- restoration, as well as how blithe the lucky ones can be.

And what a wide range of moods and modes these inviting poems possess, and an eclectic store of cultural references—all put to poetic use for rumination, reflection, and the kind of diffraction of light that brings illumination from unexpected angles of vision. The anxiety about time of Alice's White Rabbit becomes a metaphor for mortality; a crush on the weatherman reveals the climate of a culture; her Orpheus is an ornamental poet who fails to catch Death's ear "until he opened up the vein of his / despair and let it shape his plea." And, in a poem about Frankenstein, its syntax broken and patched and enlivened like its subject, we're shown how an ill-made life, "a brain struggling against worm damage and / unaccustomed thoughts," can lead even the sweetest intentions to a fatal confusion.