PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Keith Waldrop, the Brooke Russell Astor Professor of Humanities at Brown University, has won the National Book Award for poetry for his book, Transcendental Studies: A Trilogy. He received the award at the 60th annual benefit dinner and ceremony in New York City last night.
Waldrop, one of five finalists for the honor, has published more than a dozen works each of original poetry and translations. His first book, A Windmill Near Calvary, was shortlisted for the 1968 National Book Award. Recent books include The Real Subject: Queries and Conjectures of Jacob Delafon, with Sample Poems, The House Seen from Nowhere, and a translation of The Flowers of Evil by Charles Baudelaire. He has been teaching at Brown since 1968.
Transcendental Studies, published this year by University of California Press, presents three related poem sequences — “Shipwreck in Haven,” “Falling in Love through a Description,” and “The Plummet of Vitruvius” — in a virtuosic poetic triptych. The judges noted, “If transcendental immanence were possible, it would be because Keith Waldrop had invented it; he’s the only one who could — and in Transcendental Studies he has. These three linked series achieve a fusion arcing from the Romantic to the Postmodern that demonstrates language’s capacity to go to extremes — and to haul daily lived experience right along with it: life imitates language, and when language becomes these poems, life itself gets more various, more volatile, more vital.”
“Keith was nominated for a National Book Award for his first book almost 40 years ago, so this has been a long time coming,” said Brian Evenson, professor of literary arts and director of Brown’s Literary Arts Program. “Transcendental Studies is an exceptionally strong volume of poetry and an excellent choice by the National Book Awards committee. We’re delighted that he won.”
The other National Book Award winners are Colum McCann’s Let the Great World Spin for the fiction prize; T.J. Stiles’ biography of Cornelius Vanderbilt, The First Tycoon, for nonfiction; and Phillip Hoose’s Claudette Colvin for young people’s literature. Honorary medals also were presented to Gore Vidal and Dave Eggers.
A rebroadcast of the award ceremony will air on C-SPAN2’s Book TV Saturday, Nov. 21, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 22, at 10 a.m.