New Yale Younger Poet’s Volume Is ‘Savage, Desolate, Brutally Ironic’

“It Is Daylight,” a collection of poems by Arda Collins that reads as a series of dramatic, private monologues, has been chosen the winner of the 2008 Yale Series of Younger Poets competition.

The Yale Series of Younger Poets is the longest-running poetry prize in America and is widely considered the most prestigious. The annual contest is open to any American under age 40 who has not yet published a book of poetry. Each year, the Yale University Press receives more than 600 manuscripts from poets competing for the honor.

Louise Glück, former poet laureate of the United States and judge of the poetry competition, selected Collins’ series for the prize. In her foreword to “It Is Daylight,” published recently by the Yale University Press, Glück describes Collins’ volume as “savage, desolate, brutally ironic … a book of astonishing originality and intensity, unprecedented, unrepeatable.”

Collins lives in Denver, Colorado, where she is pursuing a Ph.D. in poetry. Her poems have been published in journals and magazines including The New Yorker, The American Poetry Review, A Public Space and others. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she was a Glenn Schaeffer Fellow.

In “It Is Daylight,” Collins “has invented a persona,” says Glück. “‘Welcome to my world,’ the first poem seems to say, and for the next 92 pages, we are her mesmerized audience — nobody escapes.”

Since its inception in 1919, the Yale Series of Younger Poets has published the first books of poetry by such talents as Muriel Rukeyser, Adrienne Rich, John Ashbery and Robert Hass. Glück is in her sixth year as judge. Former judges include W.S. Merwin, Archibald MacLeish, W.H. Auden, Stanley Kunitz, James Merrill and James Dickey. The 2004 prizewinner, “Crush” by Richard Siken, was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award.

Collins’ poem “Not For Chopin,” from “It Is Daylight,” follows.

Don’t put off your shower any more
listening to Chopin.
Take the Preludes personally;
he’s telling you that he can describe a progression
that you yourself have been unable to see,
shapely, broad light at one-thirty,
evening traveling up a road,
an overcast day as gentle bones.
Don’t remember the music;
remember it as something obvious
that you are compelled, doomed, to obscure
and complicate. You erase it twice.
The first time
as you listened, unable
to have it,
the second time
as you were unable
to remember it.
Angry with Chopin,
what does he know?
The components of your dinner are waiting for you downstairs.
The golden evening takes flat, slow turns outside.
Become gray.
Listen to him describe what you would be like
if you were blind, sitting in a chair, at a wake, the days short, that there might
be nothing
else, night,
content, unable, unwishing, to recall desire, or sight.

©2009 by Arda Collins

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