Norma Farber First Book Award - 2023
Paul Hlava Ceballos
The first day in the garden, God was
an immigrant who planted gulls
in clouds. Even the smallest
solar filaments with prudence
dissimilar to fire.
If culture’s root is care, it matters
the object of care is visible.
Did Adam first teach God the word semilla
or resource extraction?
Did God lack the word for monocrop
when she raised its sugar from raw earth?
Each body has its own small gravity.
The banana pulled the world when it fell.
Reprinted from banana [ ] (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2022). All rights reserved.
Chase Berggrun on Paul Hlava Ceballos' banana [ ] (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2022)
“Language emptied of meaning is a haunting” Paul Hlava Ceballos writes at the outset of banana [ ], in between the sterile, passive voice of a US Customs and Border Patrol press release on the shooting of an unarmed man at the Texas border. A book obsessed with the precise imprecisions of language, banana [ ] excises out of and excoriates a violent archive, following the skeletal fingers of imperial greed that reach from the produce aisle to the neck of Latin America. From the grim realm of death and the language of death, Ceballos refuses the urge to retrieve a flower—refuses beautification and redemption. In his hand, the scalpel cuts paper apart then slices into the flesh of its context, including a remarkable section of quotation that word by word builds a poem from scraps of language, in which references to the banana in government texts, scientific articles, and labor regulation handbooks transmute into an agonizing lyric: “to banana / be banana / a banana / domesticated banana / object banana / overripe banana / as banana / an banana / empire banana” (or, read down the margin of the page: “to be a domesticated object overripe as an empire”). A careful and painstaking project against the horror that state power inks across page, land, and human body, banana [ ] is an exquisite, remarkable debut.
Paul Hlava Ceballos is the author of banana [ ], a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and winner of the AWP Donald Hall Prize for Poetry. His collaborative chapbook, Banana [ ] / we pilot the blood, shares pages with Quenton Baker and Christina Sharpe. He has received fellowships from CantoMundo, Artist Trust, and Poets House. His work has been published in Poetry, Poetry Northwest, and BOMB, among other journals and newspapers. He currently lives in Seattle, where he practices echocardiography.
Andrew E. Colarusso, Hívado (Flood Editions)
Andrew E. Colarusso is the author of Hívado and the short story collection Souvenirs with Karen An-hwei Lee.
Rio Cortez, Golden Ax (Penguin)
Rio Cortez is the author of the debut poetry collection, Golden Ax, longlisted for both the National Book Award in poetry and the Pen America Open Book Award. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Buzzfeed, and elsewhere. Born and raised in Salt Lake City, UT, she now lives, works, and writes in Harlem, NY.
Robert Wood Lynn, Mothman Apologia (Yale University Press)
Robert Wood Lynn is a writer from Virginia. His debut collection of poems Mothman Apologia was named a Best Book of 2022 by the New York Times and the New York Public Library. Winner of the Yale Younger Poets Prize and the Kate Tufts Discovery Award, his writing has appeared or is forthcoming in American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, Poetry and other publications, as well as been included in the Southern Poetry Anthology: Virginia. A 2023 NEA Creative Writing Fellow, he splits his time between Rockbridge County, Virginia and Brooklyn, New York.