Former ALSCW President Greg Delanty Awarded Inaugural David Ferry and Ellen LaForge Poetry Prize

Poet Greg Delanty has been named the first recipient of the David Ferry and Ellen LaForge Poetry Prize. The prize was established at Suffolk University through the generosity of the Ellen LaForge Memorial Foundation. It honors Ellen LaForge, a lifelong avid poetry lover and supporter, and poet and translator David Ferry. The prize, along with a $2,000 honorarium, is awarded to an accomplished poet who has also published books of translation.

Ferry — a Distinguished Visiting Poet at Suffolk for over a decade and winner of the National Book Award — participated in the ceremony, praising Delanty for the “immediacy of his language.”

Hot Rocks: Songs and Verse

This installment of Hot Rocks celebrates the achievement of David Bottoms, one of our finest living poets and a powerful presence in American letters as an editor, teacher, and fiction writer for over forty years.  He is the author of eight books of poetry, two novels, and was the co-editor and founder of Five Points: A Journal of Literature and Art.  He served as Poet Laureate of Georgia from 2000 to 2012, held the John B. and Elena Diaz-Amos Distinguished Chair in English Letters at Georgia State University, and retired in the spring of 2020.  His many awards include the Levinson Prize, an Ingram-Merrill Award, an American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Award, the Walt Whitman Award, and fellowships from the National Endowment of the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation.

Winterland, a novel excerpt

The wind swirled figure eights atop the yard’s lone tree when David pulled into the driveway, and the thick rain pummeled the pavement in erratic, grenade-like, bursts. Rain bands, from the outer arms of the storm—so Calypso was nearly there, and the supply run he’d just made would be his last. A futile attempt to find more 2x4s or plywood to better secure the open window on the south side of the garage, where he’d fastened a tarp. The streets were empty except for city emergency vehicles, the hardware stores long out of supplies and shutting down, curfew two hours away, besides. Even then the military troops stationed outside the stores had given him dirty looks in between wiping raindrops from their fresh faces, jaws set as they twitched, no doubt irritated and longing to be home, wherever that was, with their families. Upon exiting the last store, one of them had stepped over, said to him, “Little late to be out for someone your age, isn’t it?”—cocked his head, lips wet over straight teeth. Knuckles gripping his gun, the soldier nodded and said, “Best get on home now.” David stared ahead, hurried on.

ALSCW Meringoff Writing Award Winners

We are delighted to announce the winners of the 2020 Meringoff Writing Awards! The awards include a prize of $3,500 each and publication in Literary Matters. The Meringoff Writing Awards are given annually in the categories of poetry, fiction, and  creative nonfiction.

1) Non-Fiction: Oliver Spivey for “’The Secret Rhythm of Chance’: The Nabokovian Vision of Tragedy in Pale Fire”

Infinite Gratitude

It’s an impossible feat—how can I possibly capture in a paragraph the impact David has had on my life, as a poet, a teacher, a colleague, and a friend?

There are so many dimensions here that I don’t think a Kusama infinity mirror room could catch them all. I will make an attempt here by sharing the first stanza of one of his poems I read as an undergrad at FSU in 1986 in the pages of Poetry:

The Guitar

The Immortalists

How wonderful and fitting that David Ferry is being honored by the ALSCW. David has been a longtime member and a boon to the Association. I remember the excitement and joy of reading David’s poems, translations, and essays all the way back to when Sally Spence was the impressive editor of Literary Imagination.  It is an indication of the  power of David’s writing that I could recall his brilliant essay, “Translating from the Ancients,” in a 2003 volume of the magazine and I was grateful to be able to quote from that essay in a recent book of my own translations, Apathy Is Out, Selected poems Seán Ó Ríordáin: “David Ferry laments in his own translation of Virgil: ‘But the Latin line, in the authoritative implacable finality of the grammatical structure of this boundary, could not be brought across, and when I read my attempt I feel haunted by its absence.’  Whatever David says about his own translations, there is no better living translator than David Ferry.  And living he is. And also to boot, there is no one more natural, erudite and joyous to be in the company of.  Recently, Neil Astley, the editor of Bloodaxe Books, remarked on hearing of the inaugural award “The David Ferry and Ellen LaForge Poetry Prize”, that it is odd to have an award named after a writer who is still alive. My response was that it is better to honor writers when they are alive rather than when they are dead. I would also like to mention that David was a generous donator to the organization during a time that I was president of the ALSCW back in 2011, and in this way he also helped to keep the Association alive.

Thanks to the Courtesy of David Ferry

Where to begin? A thousand good places, with one of the many best being within a conversation that David Ferry had twenty years ago with students who were taking at their school a course on “The Art of Poetry” with a dear friend of his (and of many others of us), Harry Thomas. A question was asked by Allison Ellsworth – all the names were courteously acknowledged – about the poems as responses, for instance to “your father’s writings and your grandfather’s”. The reply was tender, supple, and respectful of all concerned.

Paying (Homage to) the Ferryman

I must have first become aware of David Ferry through his 1992 Gilgamesh. My Classics friends and I devoured it, so strange and exotic and yet so lucid and somehow familiar, with its goddess-born hero, its slaying of monsters, the intense mourning of one warrior for his companion, its voyage to the ends of the earth for knowledge. I believe in an early chapbook I even quote, as an epigram or as a title perhaps, my favorite phrase: “and a worm fell out of his nose,” which thrilled us with its specificity, its pathos cum bathos, its zombie-movie horror. Mesopotamia, Sumer, Babylon—for Classicists these words still retain something of the exotic, the fairytale, the Faraway and Long Ago about them, even though this geography was a real and connected part of the known world to the Greeks and Romans, and, as Iraq, violently and tragically entangled with our own. One thinks of the nursery rhyme:

To My Translator

Even during the three-week synecdoche
I spent standing, so barely sleeping, on the boat,
Vertical, or at an angle, like a stylus,
A slow mover among the characters
Tattooed on bulkheads and gangways,
Even before I stepped onto the pier,
More dropping than setting down my suitcase,
And regretting—a little—the enormity
Of my index, all those blood-black letters,
The twenty-six wounds, the never-healing
Punctuation marks and diacriticals,
I had already imagined my rescuer,
I had already imagined my arrival,
Your hand or someone else’s taking mine
Here, in the land of my speechlessness.