Poet Wins Yale Competition

She was raised in Connecticut and now lives in California, but her vivid descriptions of the Brazilian jungle are what won Talvikki Ansel the 1996 Yale Series of Younger Poets competition.

Ms. Ansel’s manuscript, “Teatro Amazonas,” is named for an opera house in the jungles of Brazil. The work was selected from almost 700 entries in this year’s competition by James Dickey, poet and novelist, who judges the annual competition.

“Ansel’s poetry is refreshingly original,” said Mr. Dickey in announcing this year’s winner. “The jungle has never been very well rendered in poetry, but Ansel changes all that. She renders the heat, the closeness, the mystery and the terrible fear of the undisclosed, the lurking, the waiting to happen. This is true imagination, true craft.”

“Teatro Amazonas” will become the 92nd volume in the Yale Series of Younger Poets when it is published in April 1997, National Poetry Month, in both cloth and paperback editions. Previous Yale Younger Poets include Adrienne Rich, John Ashbery, Robert Hass, Carolyn Forche and the 1995 winner, Ellen Hinsey. The competition is open to any American writer under the age of 40 who has not previously published a volume of poetry.

Ms. Ansel attended Connecticut College and earned a B.A. and M.F.A. from Mount Holyoke College and Indiana University, respectively. Recently a Wallace Stegner Fellow in Creative Writing at Stanford University, her poems have appeared in a number of magazines, including “Missouri Review,” “The Iowa Review,” “Poetry East” and “Shenandoah.”

An excerpt from Talvikki Ansel’s poem, “In Fragments, In Streams,” follows.

xvii.

I was walking the edge of the forest

once, a little lost but not too lost,

looking for the path in. It was evening

and foggy. On my left, the trees – a great

wave of grey in the fog; the strands of barbed

wire to stop the cows were balancing

drops of water, and every hair on my arm

was white with fog. I have never told

anyone this. How, seeing it all I thought

I wouldn’t have cared if I were dying.

A pearl kite hawking insects, brilliant

tangled beetle in the net – and I think I

could have walked forever into the trees,

into the breaking trees.

xviii.

Waking, months after I leave the jungle,

I have lost something in sleep; I curl

under my blankets. My toes numb,

I push a foot against the wall until

I rock slightly in my bed. New England

spring, the crocuses bloom and freeze. Brazil

is like a bird in water-color I thought

I saw a long time ago, a fading ceiling;

I try to remember one thing, a blue

winged moth, sun filtering through the trees,

the spiders spinning their threads across

the paths; when I wake again I am

freezing, and my remembering,

the web I walk through every morning.

– From “Teatro Amazonas” by Talvikki Ansel copyright 1997 by Yale University

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Gila Reinstein: gila.reinstein@yale.edu, 203-432-1325