Saturday, February 18, 2012

Who Gets the 2012 Pulitzer Prize?

I went and got sick this week. Such is the way of bodies. And, while talking gibberish to the walls with a 104.3 degree temperature, I wondered briefly who was going to get the Pulitzer tap this year. (It’s something like a spinal tap, I hear, only more painful, and with longer odds on a full recovery.)

The Story so far:

Edwin Arlington Robinson (1922) •

Edna St. Vincent Millay (1923) •

Robert Frost (1924) •

Edwin Arlington Robinson (1925) •

Amy Lowell (1926) •

Leonora Speyer (1927) •

Edwin Arlington Robinson (1928) •

Stephen Vincent Benét (1929) •

Conrad Aiken (1930) •

Robert Frost (1931) •

George Dillon (1932) •

Archibald MacLeish (1933) •

Robert Hillyer (1934) •

Audrey Wurdemann (1935) •

Robert P. T. Coffin (1936) •

Robert Frost (1937) •

Marya Zaturenska (1938) •

John Gould Fletcher (1939) •

Mark Van Doren (1940) •

Leonard Bacon (1941) •

William Rose Benét (1942) •

Robert Frost (1943) •

Stephen Vincent Benét (1944) •

Karl Shapiro (1945) •

Robert Lowell (1947) •

W. H. Auden (1948) •

Peter Viereck (1949) •

Gwendolyn Brooks (1950)

Carl Sandburg (1951) •

Marianne Moore (1952) •

Archibald MacLeish (1953) •

Theodore Roethke (1954) •

Wallace Stevens (1955) •

Elizabeth Bishop (1956) •

Richard Wilbur (1957) •

Robert Penn Warren (1958) •

Stanley Kunitz (1959) •

W. D. Snodgrass (1960) •

Phyllis McGinley (1961) •

Alan Dugan (1962) •

William Carlos Williams (1963) •

Louis Simpson (1964) •

John Berryman (1965) •

Richard Eberhart (1966) •

Anne Sexton (1967) •

Anthony Hecht (1968) •

George Oppen (1969) •

Richard Howard (1970) •

William S. Merwin (1971) •

James Wright (1972) •

Maxine Kumin (1973) •

Robert Lowell (1974) •

Gary Snyder (1975)

John Ashbery (1976) •

James Merrill (1977) •

Howard Nemerov (1978) •

Robert Penn Warren (1979) •

Donald Justice (1980) •

James Schuyler (1981) •

Sylvia Plath (1982) •

Galway Kinnell (1983) •

Mary Oliver (1984) •

Carolyn Kizer (1985) •

Henry S. Taylor (1986) •

Rita Dove (1987) •

William Meredith (1988) •

Richard Wilbur (1989) •

Charles Simic (1990) •

Mona Van Duyn (1991) •

James Tate (1992) •

Louise Glück (1993) •

Yusef Komunyakaa (1994) •

Philip Levine (1995) •

Jorie Graham (1996) •

Lisel Mueller (1997) •

Charles Wright (1998) •

Mark Strand (1999) •

C. K. Williams (2000)

Stephen Dunn (2001) •

Carl Dennis (2002) •

Paul Muldoon (2003) •

Franz Wright (2004) •

Ted Kooser (2005) •

Claudia Emerson (2006) •

Natasha Trethewey (2007) •

Robert Hass / Philip Schultz (2008) •

W. S. Merwin (2009) •

Rae Armantrout (2010) •

Kay Ryan (2011)

It’s always fun to be reminded of who gets the Pulitzer young, and who gets it old, and who gets it who we never hear from again (too numerous to mention) or don’t remember for long, or who never get it, but who should have. All that good stuff.

And, thinking of the books that were published in some of these years that have become huge in retrospect (T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land and Other Poems springs to mind, but there are others as well), and thinking of where the Pulitzer tunes in to what’s happening and where it goes way reactionary, who is it going to be this year? Who should win? What are the odds?

I don't have enough books from the past year in my head to make a guess, but looking at the ebb and flow of names, and the way they tend to shift back and forth, my guess is that it'll be someone young-ish this year. It's been older poets for quite some time now. (With a couple recent exceptions.) Seems like a possible Dean Young year, if so. Or, more probably, it'll stay older.  I'd put even odds on Robert Pinsky.


At 2/18/2012 7:03 AM, Blogger C. Dale said...

Stephen Vincent Benet won it twice? Oh my God.

At 2/18/2012 7:10 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

All the way into the 40s it was good to have the name Benét!

It's why I always disagree with people who talk about a "period style" and such, as if periods were one thing. There are always different things going on than we later say were going on.

At 2/18/2012 7:11 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Most of them were political, of course. But it's no less so now when we talk about what the "typical" poem is, and who the popular poets are.

At 2/18/2012 7:31 AM, Blogger C. Dale said...

Hahahahaha. Yes, Benet seems to have had a certain Pulitzer charm. I don't know what the period style is.I suspect it is always being revised. And as time passes, even what was in fashion is revised away or revised in. The nature of the beast. Too many talk about it in terms of aesthetics, but I think that is far too lofty. It is political in a way most of us just cannot see. And it is very much influenced by geography. Regardless of aesthetic, certain parts of the country seem to assert a kind of dominance in the world of Letters. Certain schools (by which I mean universities) seem to as well. It is complicated.

At 2/18/2012 7:32 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

It is good to live on the east coast.

At 2/18/2012 7:34 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

It's second best to live on the west coast.

At 2/18/2012 7:57 AM, Blogger C. Dale said...

And it is good to have gone to an Ivy League school. And even better if you teach at one! Hahahahahaha

At 2/18/2012 8:14 AM, Blogger Andrew Shields said...

I expected there to be more names that I did not know. I'm not saying I've read all of them, but I've heard of all but eight of them (Taylor in 86 being the last name unfamiliar to me).

At 2/18/2012 8:37 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

A fun game is compare it to the National Book Awards list:

2011 Nikky Finney
2010 Terrance Hayes
2009 Keith Waldrop
2008 Mark Doty
2007 Robert Hass
2006 Nathaniel Mackey
2005 W. S. Merwin
2004 Jean Valentine
2003 C. K. Williams
2002 Ruth Stone
2001 Alan Dugan
2000 Lucille Clifton
1999 Ai
1998 Gerald Stern
1997 William Meredith
1996 Hayden Carruth
1995 Stanley Kunitz
1994 James Tate
1993 A. R. Ammons
1992 Mary Oliver
1991 Philip Levine
1990 No Award
1989 No Award
1988 No Award
1987 No Award
1986 No Award
1985 No Award
1983 Charles Wright
1983 Galway Kinnell
1982 William Bronk
1981 Lisel Mueller
1980 Philip Levine
1979 James Merrill
1978 Howard Nemerov
1977 Richard Eberhart
1976 John Ashbery
1975 Marilyn Hacker
1974 Adrienne Rich
1974 Allen Ginsberg
1973 A. R. Ammons
1972 Howard Moss
1972 Frank O'Hara
1971 Mona Van Duyn
1970 Elizabeth Bishop
1969 John Berryman
1968 Robert Bly
1967 James Merrill
1966 James Dickey
1965 Theodore Roethke
1964 John Crowe Ransom
1963 William Stafford
1962 Alan Dugan
1961 Randall Jarrell
1960 Robert Lowell
1959 Theodore Roethke
1958 Robert Penn Warren
1957 Richard Wilbur
1956 W. H. Auden
1955 Wallace Stevens
1954 Conrad Aiken
1953 Archibald MacLeish
1952 Marianne Moore
1951 Wallace Stevens
1950 William Carlos Williams

At 2/18/2012 9:50 AM, Blogger David Grove said...

Van Doren won it; Ginsberg didn't. Ha!

(As I was typing "Ha!" a guy sitting next to me in this library said "Ha!" Ha!)

Well, as Humboldt says in the Bellow novel, the Pulitzer is for the pullets.

At 2/18/2012 9:51 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

As I've also heard, years ago: "Pull it, sir."

At 2/18/2012 10:18 AM, Blogger David Grove said...

Or the dish all poets crave: Pullet Surprise.

At 2/19/2012 2:09 AM, Blogger Andrew Shields said...

"Van Doren won it; Ginsberg didn't. Ha!"

The Pulitzer Prize is not given to poets but to collections of poems. So this is beside the point, unless there was a Ginsberg collection released in the year that Van Doren won it. (Since he won it in 1940, when Ginsberg was 14, 16 years before "Howl," the comparison is actually absurd.)

The real comparison would be between Bishop's "A Cold Spring" and "Howl" in 1956, or between Phyllis McGinley and "Kaddish" in 1961, etc.

At 2/19/2012 2:12 AM, Blogger Andrew Shields said...

I looked a little further. Ginsberg fans could complain that Mary Oliver won the Pulitzer in 1984 for American Primitive, the year that Ginsberg's Collected was first published.

At 2/19/2012 4:53 AM, Blogger David Grove said...

Not absurd. G. & Van Doren couldn't have vied for the Putzpuller in the same year: G. was only 14 in 1940. Van Doren became one of G.'s mentors at Columbia a few years later. G. was still writing "When I died, love, when I died" kind of stuff at that time. The point is Van Doren won the Pulitzer with classical 30s/40s ephemera that dropped into the well of oblivion; G., on the other hand, never won it, though he's an indispensable American poet. He came close once, but he never won it. That's all I'm saying.

At 2/19/2012 5:48 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

I'll add that often poets DO win it rather than collections. I doubt they rally thought Lowell's The Dolphin deserved the prize, but since they skipped both Life Studies and For the Union Dead, they were wanting to catch up.

The Pulitzers, in my mind, are like the oscars or whatever take-away show. Sometimes it's for direct merit, sometimes for political reasons, and sometimes to give someone an award they should have won for previous work.

(Lowell, of course, also famously won for Lord Weary's Castle in the 40s, which is now a mostly unreadable book.)

At 2/19/2012 6:56 AM, Blogger Andrew Shields said...

But using Ginsberg to beat up on Van Doren is beside the point, as is "Van Doren won it; Ginsberg didn't. Ha!"

Unless what you're trying to do is discredit the "Pullet Surprise", and then surely the Ginsberg/McGinley comparison would be more effectve, since Ginsberg published Kaddish in 1961. I don't know anything about McGinley, but I'm betting that Kaddish is better than her selected that won that year.

It's like saying "Paul Lukas won Best Actor; Peter O'Toole didn't. Ha!" A valid point would be that Cliff Robertson got the award in 68 when O'Toole was nominated for one of his best roles ever ("The Lion in Winter"). Otherwise, he always lost to other brilliant actors.

At 2/19/2012 7:15 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

I know you're talking mostly to David here, but I want to interject that credit or discredit has - at least in my mind - always been beside the point in regards to awards. It's theirs to give to whomever they want for whatever reason. I (like everyone else) sometimes agree with their decisions, other times not. I was just wondering who was going to win next is all.

At 2/19/2012 7:58 AM, Blogger David Grove said...

Right on, John.

Andrew, maybe you found my comparison arbitrary. If I'd said "How come Van Doren won and Bill Knott has never won," that would've been arbitrary. But Van Doren and Ginsberg are associated with each other. Van Doren mentored both Ginsberg and Kerouac at Columbia. In fact, I dare speculate that Van Doren is better remembered for keeping Ginsberg out of the slammer than for his poetry.

On second thought, what's wrong with asking why Van Doren won a Pulitzer and Knott never has? What's wrong with saying "Sinatra won an Oscar for acting; Orson Welles never won an Oscar for either acting or directing. Ha!"

At 2/19/2012 11:50 AM, Blogger Thomas Brady said...

Do we know who the judges were?

I love Edna Millay, but I always suspected her Pulitizer at a young age was because Edmund Wilson was madly in love with her...

If you don't know who the judges are, what's the point?


At 2/19/2012 1:50 PM, Blogger Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 2/20/2012 6:01 AM, Blogger Thomas Brady said...

Oh, you can't talk about this stuff, Gary!

At 2/20/2012 6:02 AM, Blogger Thomas Brady said...



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