The Nation is proud to announce the 30th Anniversary Reading of Discovery/The Nation. The annual contest, for poets whose work has not been published in book form, was founded by Nation poetry editor Grace Schulman as a fusion of The Nation‘s Poetry Prize and the 92nd Street Y Poetry Center’s Discovery Award. The winners for 2004 are James Arthur, Hailey Leithauser, Mitch Roberson and Anne Pierson Wiese. This year’s judges are Richard Kenney, Brad Leithauser and Rachel Wetzsteon. As in the past, manuscripts are judged anonymously. Distinguished former winners of Discovery/The Nation include Susan Mitchell, Katha Pollitt, Mary Jo Salter, Sherod Santos, Arthur Smith, Emily Heistand, Debora Greger, Roseanna Warren and David St. John. Past judges include Yehuda Amichai, James Merrill, Anthony Hecht, Mark Strand, Louise Glück, Michael Harper and Audre Lorde. This year’s Discovery/The Nation event, featuring readings by the four winners, is scheduled for 8:15 on Monday, May 10, The Unterberg Poetry Center, 92nd Street Y, 1395 Lexington Avenue.
Blindness and Transparency
I can’t say. Is it better to close your eyes,
or to go unseen?
Better to live unlit and ostrich-like
(a beached, unlikely survivor, the burier of an unhatched head), or
as a ctenophore, invisible in the ocean’s indifferent embrace,
as a glassy swimmer never seen by the sun?
as a glassy swimmer never seen by tHot heart, transparent body,
done or undone, we’ll grow in
each other’s eyes–
The Return of Ozymandias
By Honor, what mess
they made of me! Sand
and scorch, ruin and
wind. Man is an ass
we know, but know this
also: That which stands
a day in sun stands
forever. What use
is there in ageless
glory? What command
speaks beyond our end?
I triumphed. No less
now my splendor pass,
did I once ascend.
No clouds, but over the graduated hillsides
of produce, thunder and lightning warn
that automatic rain is about to fall
on peppers, on mealy, out-of-season tomatoes,
tumescent cucumbers, rain-hatted heads of iceberg
lettuce. Perhaps the thunder and lightning
are as mythic to the vegetables as they are to us,
reminding the asparagus and snap-peas, the organic
and inorganic broccoli, of the California fields
they sprouted in, awakening them
from the nightmare of being harvested and hauled
cross-country, into the dawn of fluorescent
day. Neither are we deprived of the effects of false
weather. Outside there is grass painted green
to make it appear more grass-like, car-capsules
with individual climate control for each passenger,
malls that are little towns that replace little towns.
But how can any weather be false? The humidity
of the Muzak isn’t false, nor is the fog
that vanishes when you close the frozen doors
to the chopped spinach’s temple of ice. In these aisles
that are the bushes from which we pick nuts and berries
to bring back to our young, the air conditioning
compels us to buy more and more. Isn’t weather
no matter how conditioned, still weather? Nature
still nature? See–there’s a bird flying from one rafter
to the next, alighting as if on a limb, confused
by how low the sky is today, how ripe the pickings.
The Century Plant
The century plant’s flowered spear appears
only once, twenty feet tall, shortly before
its death. Given the proper conditions, all plants
bloom on schedule. We are less sure
of ourselves, the conditions we make
for presenting what’s inside us
to the world less specific; we are haunted
by unplantlike doubts about the worth
of what we have to offer. The Botanic
Garden had advertised the event. I don’t
remember how old I was, maybe ten.
There was a once-in-a-lifetime line
in the conservatory, a familiar smell
of growth and decay, the choice to look or look away.
Anne Pierson Wiese