Lyric Poetry Award - 2019
Kelli Russell Agodon
At Times My Body Leans Toward Loss
You don't remember seeing the deer give birth
on the highway, so when I said, I worry about things
I can't control, you told me the pitchfork
I carry in mind stabs inwards,
like the day was sun-filled, but what I saw
was how I bumped the planter of Gerber daisies
and the moth fluttered up into the beak of a bird.
Death and dinner. A minor accident and something dies.
Like the woman who drove to work crying in her car
and when I saw her, she waved, a reflection in the glass,
the good fortune of having a job to drive to, but the collision
of sadness in the left ventricle of a heart. Who can hold
a knife without thinking for just a second, which vein
is the most useful
to slice into? Most everyone, you say,
as you dull-down the ends of my pitchfork, most
everyone, you say as you unlock the door to our house.
Ilya Kaminsky on Kelli Russell Agodon
I am so impressed with the wonderful quality of submissions for this award. As the contest is anonymous, I have no idea who the authors are. But their talents are obvious. There is so much absolutely terrific work here.
Kelli Russell Agodon's "At Times My Body Leans Toward Loss"— While I was impressed by many poems submitted for this competition, this particular poem struck me as something complete, as the world of its own, with its own laws, and its own conflicts, and caritas. There is real strangeness here, yet, it is in no way mere strangeness for the sake of strangeness. The oddness here simply mirrors the oddness of our world, both the natural world, and that which is inside us. I am not a neuroscientist. I cannot tell you exactly in which ways the human mind moves. But it strikes me the mind's motion is not unlike the movement of this poem: "You don't remember seeing the deer give birth / on the highway, so when I said, I worry about things / I can't control, you told me the pitchfork / I carry in mind stabs inwards."