Every year to celebrate Poetry Month, we select 32 poets to battle it out in a competition for the ages: Poetry Madness. This year, we decided to do things a little differently: instead of choosing the players ourselves, we asked four awesome poets — Saeed Jones, Andrea Gibson, Robert Lashley, and Hajara Quinn — to each nominate eight of their favorite contemporaries to compete for the title of Best Poet of All Time (for the year). Who will emerge victorious? Read about the contenders here and then go to our Poetry Madness page on April 8 to vote for your top choices.
Below are Hajara Quinn's picks for Poetry Madness 2015.
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|Hajara Quinn lives in Portland, Oregon. She is an assistant editor for Octopus Books and the author of the chapbook Unnaysayer (Flying Object, 2013). Her poems have appeared in Gulf Coast, Banango Street, The Volta, Nightblock, and Sixth Finch. She is the recipient of a 2015 Oregon Literary Fellowship.
Author of Trances of the Blast
"Mary Ruefle is perhaps the poet most likely to disarm me on any given day. The way the imagination in her poetry does its transformative work on description, the way it changes everything, the way she resists easy epiphany, the way she courts impossible epiphanies."
"Provenance" by Mary Ruefle
from Trances of the Blast (Wave Books, 2013)
In the fifth grade
I made a horse of papier-mâché
and painted it white
and named it Aurora
We were all going to the hospital
each one with his little animal
to give to the girl who was
lying on her deathbed there
whose name I can't recall
A classmate with freckles perhaps
or such small feet her footsteps
never mattered much
I did not want to give her anything
It seemed unfair she got to ride Aurora
whom I made with my own two hands
and took aside at birth and said Go
while I had to walk
perhaps for a very long time
I thought perhaps the animals
would all come back
together and on one day
but they never did
And so I have had to deal with wild
intractable people all my days
and have been led astray in a world
of shattered moonlight and beasts and trees
where no one ever even curtsies anymore
or has an understudy
So I have gone up to the little room
in my face, I am making something
out of a jar of freckles
and a jar of glue
I hated childhood
I hate adulthood
And I love being alive
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Author of You Good Thing
"Dara Wier is one of our most generous poets. Her poetry has a brilliant and endlessly roving curiosity."
Read her poem "Awe of Everything."
Follow her on Twitter @darawier.
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Author of Wastoid
"I am thankful for poets like Mathias Svalina who are capable of resuscitating the beat-up and spammy world — who can herd a waffle iron, Home Depot, and a mayor into poems that will make you 'chortle.'"
Read two of his poems here.
Follow him on Twitter @MathiasSvalina.
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Author of Picasso's Tears
"Wong May is one of our major poets. And to have a new collection of poetry after three decades is astounding. Still as elemental, impressionistic, surreal, and singular as ever, Picasso's Tears is like a time capsule of everything we've been missing since her last collection was published in 1978."
"Vague" by Wong May
When in Spring
the vague pink
I don't seek
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Author of Stay, Illusion
"I love Lucie Brock-Broido's poetry for its ornate immediacy, for its studiousness, and for its "feral poetics." Read it fast and furiously, read it slow and luxuriously; both are equally rewarding and bewildering."
"For a Snow Leopard in October" by Lucie Brock-Broido
Stay, little ounce, here in
Fleece and leaf with me, in the evermore
Where swans trembled in the lake around our bed of hay and morning
Came each morning like a felt cloak billowing
Across the most pale day. It was the color of a steeple disappearing
In an old Venetian sky. Or of a saint tamping the grenadine
Of his heavy robes before the Blessing of the Animals.
I've heard tell of men who brought Great Pyrenees, a borzoi, or
Some pocket mice, baskets of mourning doves beneath their wicker lids,
A chameleon on a leash from the Prussian circuses,
And from the farthest Caucasus, some tundra wolves in pairs.
In a meadow I had fallen
As deep in sleep as a trilobite in the red clay of the centuries.
Even now, just down our winding road, I can hear the children blanketing
Themselves to sleep in leaves from maple trees.
No bad dreams will come to them I know
Because once, in the gone-ago, I was a lynx as well, safe as a tiger-iris
In its silt on the banks of the Euphrates, as you were. Would they take
You now from me, like Leonardo's sleeve disappearing in
The air. And when I woke I could not wake
You, little sphinx, I could not keep you here with me. Anywhere, I could not bear to let you go. Stay here
In our clouded bed of wind and timothy with me.
Lie here with me in snow.
(Excerpted from Stay, Illusion by Lucie Brock-Broido. Copyright © 2013 by Lucie Brock-Broido. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.)
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Author of The Art of Daring
"Carl Phillips is the master of things like setting up tensions between the sentence and the line, the eternal and beauty or the ephemeral; he is a master of longing and prolonging. His poetry is the elegant form of the spiral staircase, and the present participle of climbing the staircase and the hush and composure of the arrival, and the violence of the broken window at the landing."
Read "A Kind of Meadow."
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C. A. Conrad
Author of Ecodeviance: (Soma)tics for the Future Wilderness
"If you need a reminder that reading and writing poetry is a powerful and political and radical act, C. A. Conrad will remind you, and will guide you in a poetic ritual that involves attaching a balloon to your belly button with bubble gum."
Read "(Soma)tic 5: Storm SOAKED Bread."
Follow him on Twitter @CAConrad88.
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Sara Eliza Johnson
Author of Bone Map
"Sara Eliza Johnson's new first collection of poetry, Bone Map, is dark as crystals, and as lucid as dreaming. It is a poetry that inhabits the haunted ground of the before and aftermaths — of war, of extinction, catastrophe."
Follow her on Twitter @saraelizaj.
"Letter from the Ice Field, December" by Sara Eliza Johnson
In the dream, you stand at the end
of the field beyond the house.
You bury something.
Your hands glow like milk in the dark.
You bend, your shovel lifts pieces
of moonlight into the air.
I try to call you inside
but my mouth locks with frost.
The room of the skull floods with snow.
I have forgotten how you sound.
Your hands fall like milk
into the well of darkness you dig
and I cannot see beyond it.
This is to say, I wake
with a deeper void. I am beginning
to see the body as a well
and your absence as a thirst
that pushes its hands
down my throat, lifts the bucket,
drinks and drinks. A saint said
when the dead visit us in dreams
they cannot know what they do.
You came to the field.
You cut off your ears.
Your hands fell through me—
two lights I almost broke
in half wanting. Tell me
what you thought you were doing
when you tried to lay your body
into that ground.