Award Winners

2020 Four Quartets Prize

Brian Teare


Ilya Kaminsky

Prageeta Sharma

Selected by Cyrus Cassells, Forrest Gander, and Maureen McLane

Brian Teare was selected for his poem “Toxics Release Inventory (Essay on Man)” from his collection Doomstead Days (Nightboat Books, 2019)


“With his walking-activated line and stanza breaks and his mix of personal experience, documentary materials, and political implication, Brian Teare writes one of our times’ most affecting poems on environmental crises and ethical responsibility, focusing in “Toxics Release Inventory (Essay on Man)'' on the city of Philadelphia and his own corporeal implication in systemic and deadly pollution. In this bravura unfurling of reticulated haikus, Teare undertakes a mode of geophysical positioning via lyric reckoning, sounding out the permeability, vulnerability, and intimacy of bodies in specifically distressed environs. Teare is a virtuoso of sensuous and intellectual registration, of the luminous and telling detail, from the “timothy inflorescing,/fringing the sidewalk” to a broken condom to coyotes yipping up a city street. Aerated yet also intensely wrought, this is a work of ambulatory notation and philosophical reflection. Teare offers both a brilliant inventorying and a fiercely alert sauntering, openhearted and intermittently devastated, charting a path toward a great democracy of attentiveness and a committed, disabused persistence. This allusive, wide-ranging sequence from his ambitious Doomstead Days moves and dazzles us in its acrobatic beauty on the page, confirming Teare as a clear-sighted, profoundly inventive ecopoetic heir to Rachel Carson and Thoreau, an American flaneur “married to the world/alive with the feel/of mortal knowledge.”

All Winners