Strand, Rankine Longlisted for National Book Award in Poetry

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Mark Strand
Two Columbia poets appear among the ten longlisted for the 2014 National Book Award, one of the nation's most hallowed writing honors: Professor Mark Strand for his Collected Poems (Knopf/Random House) and alumna Claudia Rankine ('93) for her book Citizen: An American Lyric (Graywolf).

In its citation, the National Book Foundation hailed Strand, whose book includes 50 years' worth of poems, as a writer "whose haunting and exemplary style has influenced an entire generation of poets." In the profile of Strand on its website, the National Poetry Foundation says, "The hallmarks of his style are precise language, surreal imagery, and the recurring theme of absence and negation; later collections investigate ideas of the self with pointed, often urbane wit."

"I think what happens at certain points in my poems is that language takes over, and I follow it," Strand told the writer, translator and actor Wallace Shawn in a 1998 interview in The Paris Review. "It just sounds right. And I trust the implication of what I'm saying, even though I'm not absolutely sure what it is that I'm saying. I'm just willing to let it be."

Collected Poems is Strand's thirteenth volume of poetry; among his earlier works, Blizzard of One (Knopf) won the 1999 Pulitzer Prize. He also has published several books of translation, two books of prose, three children's books, and several monographs on contemporary artists, and he has edited numerous anthologies. Among the other awards he has won are three National Endowment for the Arts grants, a MacArthur Foundation fellowship and the Gold Medal in Poetry from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2009. He served as the United States Poet Laureate in 1990-91. Strand was born on Prince Edward Island, Canada, grew up in the United States and earned degrees at Antioch College and Yale University. Some of his work can be read online on the websites of the Poetry Foundation, the Academy of American Poets and the Writer's Almanac.

In Citizen, Rankine "recounts mounting racial aggressions in ongoing encounters in twenty-first-century daily life and in the media," the National Book Foundation wrote in its citation. ". . . Our addressability is tied to the state of our belonging, Rankine argues, as are our assumptions and expectations of citizenship."

"The moral vision of Claudia Rankine’s poetry is astounding," Poets & Writers wrote in its own description of her work in her citation for winning the Jackson Poetry Prize in April. "In a body of work that pushes the boundaries of the contemporary lyric, Rankine has managed to make space for meditation and vigorous debate upon some of the most relevant and troubling social themes of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries."

In an interview last month with the New Yorker from Ferguson, Mo., where she traveled in the wake of protests that arose after the police shooting of teenager Michael Brown, she said, "One of the things, in Citizen, that I was trying to circle around is that sense that there is an odd reality where people feel that 'that's not my problem.' And, in fact, it is your problem, because you can see it, because we all live it. We experience it differently, but it's all of ours."

Rankine was born in Kingston, Jamaica, and earned a degree at Williams College before pursuing her MFA at Columbia. Citizen is her fifth volume of poetry; she has also published two plays and has edited several anthologies. Among the other honors she has won are fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Academy of American Poets. In 2013, she became a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. She is an English professor at Pomona College. She can be seen reading an excerpt from Citizen on the Poets & Writers site, and some of her work appears on the websites of the Poetry Foundation and the Academy of American Poets.

Strand and Rankine join several other Columbia writers who have been recognized by the National Book Foundation. Among them, Poetry Director Lucie Brock-Broido was a finalist in 2013 for Stay, Illusion; Professor Richard Howard was a finalist in 2008 for Without Saying and a translation winner in 1983 for his translation of Baudelaire's Fleurs du Mal; Rachel Kushner ('01) was a finalist in fiction in 2008 for Telex from Cuba; and faculty member Christine Schutt was a finalist in fiction in 2004 for her book Florida. Nonfiction professor Richard Locke has served as a judge.

The judges for this year's National Book Award in poetry included former adjunct faculty Eileen Myles, Katie Peterson, Rowan Ricardo Phillips, Robert Polito and Paisley Rekdal. The awards are given each year in the categories of young people's literature, poetry, nonfiction and fiction. The finalists in each category will be announced on October 15, and the winners will be announced on November 19.

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