Scorpion Prize 23 / Joseph Massey

This ku by Philip Rowland was selected by Joseph Massey, author of Areas of Fog (Shearsman Books, 2009) and At the Point (Shearsman Books, 2011) for Roadrunner’s 23rd Scorpion Prize.

Now we’d like to open it up to readers.

What do you make of this ku?

What other poems do you know of, and can share, that are somehow connected or associated with Philip’s ku?

Here’s what Joe had to say:

This issue (11.1) was a pleasure to read in its entirety. The choice was difficult, but I’ve settled on the above poem by Philip Rowland as the Scorpion Prize winner for its extreme economy that opens into wide areas of—layers of—possible interpretation, “meaning,” and enjoyment, without succumbing to the forced epiphany and contrived imagery that bogs down so much so-called haiku.

Anchoritic, as a stand-alone word, is a rather awkward adjective that would, I think, feel more at home in some stilted academic tome. What Rowland’s done, by the seemingly simple gesture of severing the word into three lines, is to show us how an entire world—or, at any rate, a deep glimpse into one—exists within even a most uncommon word. Anchoritic (“ascetic solitude”) thus opens up, breathes, becomes a kind of syllogism to puzzle over.

The “i” floats—or is it being crushed?—between two symptoms of a life of the mind. And the white space of the page provides the perfect room, the cell, for this active poem to move, or to sit still, in contemplation of itself; and so the definition of the word is enacted—shown—by its being turned inside out.

It’s an exquisitely strange, living thing.


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