KR BlogBlog

Award-Giving (2)

Earlier this week at Ploughshares, Rebecca Makkai posted a gleeful, stinging send-up of the social media habits of “Todd Manly-Krauss, the world’s most irritating writer.” Todd humblebrags his way through Facebook posts like “I am exhausted but exhilarated from this whirlwind tour. Fifteen cities in twenty days! Thank god tomorrow I get to just chill with Terry Gross.”

It can feel like the internet is made for Todd Manly-Krausses—and for their cousins, who squabble volubly in the comments. One can forget that most readers and writers aren’t like that. Like, yesterday on the train home, for instance, I honestly saw a person reading Tennyson. I stared at him until he looked at me, and then I looked away. Or this other recent day, I didn’t think about online literature for several minutes, as I was concerned about ecological catastrophe.

In honor of a poet, a band, and a literary center that help me pursue more open-hearted, intent approaches to art, I’m pleased to grant the second batch of the Century Swept Brutal / Black Ocean Awards in Excellence to Frank Sherlock, HAWN, and Flying Object. As detailed in an earlier post, I hope these awards celebrate and illuminate the literary (and extraliterary) connections that surround my latest book of poetry, Century Swept Brutal, its peripherally essential familiars.

I will present four batches of awards in all, ignoring the part of me that, in saying anything online, starts to feel like a Todd.

Frank Sherlock

On Tuesday evening, Frank Sherlock will be inaugurated as the new Poet Laureate of Philadelphia, a civic fact you can feel good about, wherever you live. I do, many mornings, as I walk to work past City Hall; while many things have a poet laureate, one major American city has a poet laureate who wrote, in The City Real and Imagined (a book collaboratively written with CAConrad), that “sun flowers painted in / the center of the city / are grained to commemorate.” Here’s to that sun, here’s to the deepening grain.

I had the joy of reading with Frank and some others as part of the TireFire reading series last month. I gave him a copy of my new book. I’m pleased to also present him—right before his laureateship officially takes off—with a Century Swept Brutal / Black Ocean Award in Excellence. I did not write this book in Philadelphia, but it is where my book and I now live. Thank you for being here for us, Mr. Laureate.

Lines from my book I dedicate to Frank Sherlock: “If you find our country’s / real name / from you as ants / from the rinsed / wine bottle”


I sometimes find myself in New Orleans, in a living room or bar, listening to the noise-soul-electro-stilted-levitation-rock band HAWN. Last fall, poet and musician Matt Hart was next to me at the show; he kept declaring that HAWN’s singer, Michael Jeffrey Lee, was doing things, vocally, that one “shouldn’t be able to do.” Michael is also the author of an excellent collection of short fiction, Something in My Eye, selected by Francine Prose for the Mary McCarthy Prize. His bandmate, John Craun, is a poet I met in graduate school. In songs like “I Will Think Much of This Kindness” and “The Angel” and “The Site” from HAWN’s latest album, Spree (available by pay-what-you-will donation here), is there something you’d call literary? Like being in a library with a chandelier protruding from the cover of each book? And all the pages are a radiant black?

Lines from my book I dedicate to HAWN: “The open air grown labyrinthine / if I exit from this side gate”

Flying Object

I’d like to see HAWN play at Flying Object, a literary arts powerhouse in Hadley, Massachusetts. You get there by driving through the night, or else it’s daytime, so there’s a picnic. So there’s a letterpress, classes, chapbooks on the walls, someone projected on a wall and reading a poem from where? There’s a Youth Writing Initiative. There’s a residency, a play. There are most nights. Dear Flying Object, because I hope my book is similarly various, hospitable, protean, and because I often attended events at you while I was revising it, here is a Century Swept Brutal / Black Ocean Award in Excellence. I’m glad that I will read in you on May 3 of this year.

Lines from my book I dedicate to Flying Object: “People on this island say what / people on any island say”

Congratulations to today’s awardees. They will receive a copy of my book and some other items. Thanks to my publisher, Black Ocean, for sponsoring these awards.