Since 1919 the Yale Series of Younger Poets prize has helped burgeoning artists find a well-deserved audience for their poetry. Last year’s winner, Will Schutt and his new anthology Westerly, is no exception. Carl Phillips, acclaimed poet and the judge of last year’s prize, writes in the Foreword to Westerly:
Will Schutt’s Westerly takes on nothing less than, on the one hand, the ways in which we, the living, both late and soon, make our stumbling way westward, mostly oblivious to the fact of mortality, and, on the other hand, how the dead make their resonant way back to us, sometime as memory, sometimes as guide directing us toward and through the inevitable… This is a book of uncommon wisdom… its poems sustain me. They give me hope – which may very well be, among gifts, the one we need most.
Schutt’s poems are concerned with both the real and the mythical, the modern and the historical. He weaves translations, illusions, and inventive narratives into effortless pieces of a wholly moving collection.
Read a poem excerpt below, then pick up a copy to read the whole work!
Even up close it’s hard to tell
whether the white and blue
church tower is defunct or half-finished
or, like every third house
block after prim block, let for summer.
Only an odd patch of moss
flecks the siding, and thin ginger-colored
stains make a noncomittal
braid, like wicker or wings at rest.
From our third-floor window
long scarves of water push
right up against the houses.
They seem to clip the gutter spouts.
If one were Elizabeth Bishop
one might hear it turn into a tidy music.
Tidy and resolved, the way
history says, “Look West, Future-looker,”
and kids worry a blue vein
of hope in their spiral notebooks.
At night after each boat has pulled in
behind the artificial bulwark
moonlight saddles a galvanized tub
of orange marigold and sedum,
and green and burgundy rosettes
creep upward like weird insect antennae
trucking the earth off to Westerly,
Rhode Island, where nirvana is a long time
coming, or untidy, unresolved,
the way stupid hope won’t shut up.
Excerpted from Westerly, by Will Schutt. Copyright © 2013 by Yale University. All rights reserved.