- Quality of Writing/Artistry
- Provides Insight into Utah landscape and/or culture and/or author has a connection to Utah (i.e., is or was a Utahn)
- Has the indefinable quality that makes a book special and unforgettable
Rob Carney’s 88 Maps offers a deliciously skewed worldview with laugh-out-loud lines that walk an unsteady slackline between the ridiculous and the sublime. Originally from Washington State, Carney is currently a professor of English at Utah Valley University, and a regular blogger at the online journal Terrain.org. Much of Carney’s poetry-of-place is set in the Pacific Northwest, but he has also embraced the Utah landscape, although sometimes with a residual longing for greenness: “Seems like every weekend in the summer here, someone wants to take you down to Moab,” He writes, “You go there and hang out and marvel at nature and beauty. Like it’s your job.” The joke is, marveling at nature and beauty actually is Carney’s job. His poems frequently involve mythologized encounters with the natural world, a place where someone might fish a peaceable grizzly bear out of the open sea, or wake up in bed holding a stringer of dream-fish, or where Utah legislators would need to buy a magic talisman to ward off imaginary wolves. In “The Church of the Stars and the Moon,” Carney writes, “If angels are real, then an angel might be an owl.” The poet imagines stocking his yard with pet shop mice in hopes of attracting a celestial raptor. Likewise, contemplating real estate he writes, “If there’s added value in a ceiling fan,/ then there must be value in a hawk.” Behind the whimsy lies a vision for the re-enchantment of the world.
To read the 15 Bytes review by Amy Brunvand of 88 Maps, click here.
In Nancy Takacs’ Blue Patina the natural world is deeply embedded in her language. Human existence coincides with the earth’s natural rhythms to create a spatial and temporal topography—what is routine in nature becomes ritual beneath the speaker’s observant eye. The first poem acts as a “proem” or preliminary commentary on what we will encounter: a myriad of observations that contain an undertone of wonder found only by those who have wandered far enough to the edge of a Utah forest or into the center of a foxglove blossom to see what others can’t or won’t notice. Several poems provide a sense of place—namely the rural area of Price, Utah, near where the poet resides. The vastness of the landscape as described in the poem “Utah Map” is contrasted against specific landmarks such as “an American flag/ time and wind ate except/ for a few withered stars” drilled into Balance Rock by “a woman from the town of Elmo,” or an Anasazi granary near Escalante. Other poems are written as a series of calls and responses, the answers lyrical and strange. In one line a botanical word describes best the multiplicity of sight and voices existing throughout the book—rhizome: “I want…[to] know under the surface/how long the trail of rhizome/can be, for one blossom.” Yet, despite the hint of a complex source, the emergence of a linguistic landscape seems effortless. Thus, the gift of these poems: sight on the ground or in the sky—patient, observant, sensory, precise, and always, always exploring.
To read the 15 Bytes review by Danielle Dubrasky of Blue Patina, click here.
A couple hundred years ago, a very wise man prefaced a collection of his own poetry, writing, “The principle object, then, proposed in these Poems, was to choose incidents and situations from common life, and to relate or describe them throughout, as far as was possible, in a selection of language really used by men, and, at the same time, to throw over them a certain colouring of imagination, whereby ordinary things should be presented to the mind in an unusual aspect.” The poems that have been collected in C. Wade Bentley’s What is Mine, sparkle for this very reason. Bentley’s discrete eye for tiny worlds that exist within the moment, his thoughtful meditations on the smallest movements, gestures, and implications show his readers that, in this remarkable existence of ours, the sum of accumulated minutes can be greater than the span of a lifetime. With grace and linguistic dexterity, Bentley has captured, on the page, a hundred seemingly ordinary incidents, but has done so in a luminescent language, reminding us that we can frequently find the greatest significance in some of life’s subtlest and most transient experiences.
To read samples of Bentley’s poems featured in 15 Bytes’ Sunday Blog Read, click here.
The winner of the award will be announced in July. Readings by all 3 finalists will be held this summer at a date and location TBD.
15 Bytes and its publisher Artists of Utah thanks everyone who nominated a book for this award and for their support of the literary arts in the Beehive State.
Congratulations to the finalists!
(To see the finalists for fiction, click here. Art book finalists will be announced soon).