Mariana Roa Oliva - Kim Ann Arstark Memorial Award

This year's entries for the Kim Ann Arstark Memorial Award were extraordinary, and served, indeed, to celebrate life, which made it very difficult for this reader to choose anything like "winners" amongst them. By way of honoring, I'd mention: post-O'Haran intersectional persons vividly touched; careful, institutionally implicated, poetic building in our own locale; sweet-bitter lemonade everything and everywhere; and sonnets that are absolutely and also not sonnets because they are so, o, real.

 

But, of necessity and with great pleasure, this reader singles out 'Lighthouse' as a piece of writing that performs beautifully – that is, it both is and becomes a poem – as its words turn lighthouse, at the end of a shared last day, and language takes us to a place where "there will be more planets, / each with its own set of seasons." It was the way words and images "turn" or have "turned" in this poem – historically, and without gerunding – at the edge of an intense, all-but-conventional lyricism that took the world of this writing just far enough beyond our own, in small steps that pressed its lighthouse into the earth and "pushed the sky further and further away" so that this reader could see something, and turn to hear a voice.

 

And this reader's other selection was 'Catching Fish with Two Hands' + 'A List of Herbs I Want You to Taste in my Mind in another Language'. The title of the second piece was almost enough for this reader because this reader wants, as soon as possible, to taste a list of herbs in your mind in another language. The poem itself more or less satisfied a commensurate desire but first, let's catch some fish. The latter poem seemed, at first, to risk the inconsequentiality of poeticized minimal observations or sequential non sequiturs and yet it yielded just enough personal address – that shifting ambiguous second person as well as an underlying lyric 'I' – to catch this reader in a couple of hands, while some of the gnomic fragments proved perfect verses "Liquids have it easy / inside a shape" with liquid also offering the flow of poetic narrative, "My water is sometimes thin" ... "Watching the river / melt" and, after all, it is the shape of water that summons the affect, "When a rainbow arrives / I am always surprised". Then, the poem whose title this reader took so much anticipated pleasure in, this poem also delivers in terms of a marvelous personal journey through poetic thought and through thoughts of other language. This reader doesn't want to tell other potential future readers anything more about a journey that I do very much recommend that they should take because, in the words of the poem's last line, "How do you know you want something you've never tasted?"