Scorpion Prize 20 / Rae Armantrout

For this post, I would like to open up Scorpion Prize 20, selected and commented on by Rae Armantrout, to readers, and which appeared in issue 10.2.

I emailed Rae Armantrout (a California native, born in 1947, a professor of writing in the literature department at the University of California at San Diego, and the author of ten books of poetry) on April 9th, 2010, asking her if she would be interested in being R’r’s judge for Scorpion Prize 20 by selecting her favorites from issue 10.1 and commenting upon them.

She selected her winner and sent her commentary on April 11th, one day before it was announced that she had won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for her poetry collection Versed (Wesleyan University Press, 2010). Towards the end of that email she wrote, “That was kind of fun.”

It was, of course, a great thrill that she accepted our invitation. And even greater to find out her collection had been honored in such a way, so close to her taking the time to read and comment on contemporary English-language haiku. And so, perhaps in some way, just before, during, and after the Pulitzer announcement, the ku in R’r were in or floating about her mind and thoughts.

Asking if she would be willing to perhaps highlight a few others and comment on them, she wrote: “My second favorite was the one liner by Chris Gordon and I also liked the one that begins “apology moon” by Cherie Hunter Day.”

Because of the Pulitzer announcement though, media interviews, teaching, and a schedule that was taking her on the road, she was not able to return to them for us, though she intitially intended to.

So: what do you make of this ku by Peter Yovu? What does it do for you? How does it work on and/or in you? Where does it take you?

Does the use of the word “you” (a topic worthy of its own post—perhaps even of a mini-anthology or extensive essay) impede, confuse, or (does it, instead) invite and/or open up possibilities for you as a reader?

Here is what Rae had to say:

What I really like about this poem is the way the various connotations of the word “shift” create an interesting instability, a shifting field of meanings. Taken as a phrase, “red shift” refers to the fact that light moves towards the red end of the spectrum when it is traveling away from the viewer. This is how astronomers concluded that the universe was expanding, the galaxies flying apart from one another. However, following the line “October,” the color red also suggests seasonal change or “shift” and falling leaves. So we are then dealing with personal, experiential time as well as astronomical time and distance. The third line adds a surprising new dimension.

Now the red shift is something “you” were buried in. It might even be a burial garment. So which of these meanings of “red shift” (if any) is to be taken literally and which metaphorically? I have my own idea of that, but why spell it out? What I appreciate is the way the possible meanings work together and enrich one another.

Rae Armantrout’s latest poetry collection is Moneyshot (Wesleyan University Press, 2011)