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Poteat- Essays


From Campbell McGrath, judge for the 2004 Anhinga Press Poetry Prize:

“This poet knows that ruin is no excuse for despair, and even as he combs the rubble for tokens of consolation, the presence among us of these clear-eyed, large-hearted poems may serve a similarly hopeful purpose for readers of contemporary American poetry.”

From Mary Oliver, judge for the 2004 Poetry Society of America’s Chapbook Award:

“It is a lyricism that reminds me of James Wright, and this I mean certainly as praise, when he employed, as I called it, an intensified vernacular—throwing me off my stride, gathering me to him by the detail of some earnest and often terrible beauty, in the easy language of our country with its sweet, oiled syntax….In this way Meditations is a dramatic book, a kind of word—or mood—theater. Poteat tells me things as if I were an audience but invisible. Or as if I were the moon. Yet something real passes between us, which is to say that the book is very good, that it leaves its mark.”

From Blackbird, Spring 2003, Vol. 2, No. 1:

“With natural elegance and untiring invention, Joshua Poteat writes some of the most remarkable poetry you are ever likely to encounter. In storylines that move beyond the virtues of narrative into a region of wonder, combining violence and tenderness in an intimate voice capable of revelations as swift and sudden as the sear of lighting, his poems work themselves into the cloudy fabric of your imagination and reside there as unforgettable experiences.”

From Melanie Drane, Book Editor, ForeWord Magazine, May 2006:   

“Joshua Poteat’s stunning debut has received the Anhinga Prize for Poetry, selected by Campbell McGrath. Poteat’s poems are suffused with the cognizance that ‘nothing in this world is ours.’ Each image teeters on an unsustainable, exquisite edge, as in ‘Nocturne for a River’: ‘Tell me, sad horse, with doves nesting/under your raised hoof, in this century of longing,/how can I go on loving this ruined excuse for a city...[?]’ Yet Poteat’s insistent power of witness itself constitutes a form of solace. In each meticulously observed moment, there’s the assertion of a life well loved. The morbid is tasted on the tongue in his poems, but Poteat transforms loss into a lush homage to human experience in all its complexity: ‘To live at all is to grieve/and from what life did we gain this trust,/awake each dawn/to find the bright air/full again/rustle and coo/in the widening palms?’ ”

From David Wagoner, judge for the T.S. Eliot First Book Award, 2002, on book manuscript:

“In Ornithologies, the poet, using a large cast of unusual voices, gives us a number of narratives full of surprising turns of events. With a Whitman-like desire to make anything and everything his own, with the kind of strength of James Dickey had to take on any subject or landscape or aspect of himself or of his friends, the poet goes about his work with an unshrinking, ambitious audacity.

“In this omnium gatherum, we discover a poet of bristling intelligence who knows what has already been done and has decided not to do it again. He is utterly without clichés. He is sometimes bizarre, sometimes seems to write four or five poems simultaneously in an urge to connect, to unite, to make each effort both bountiful and comprehensive, even at the risk of being excessive. But as William Blake observed in The Proverbs of Hell, “the road to excess leads to the palace of wisdom.” One sometimes gets the sense that if this poet isn’t already a novelist, he will be soon and the results will be fascinating. Auden once said of Theodore Roethke’s first book of poems: ‘He is immediately recognizable as a good poet.’ The same is true of the author of Ornithologies.”