Main Content


2010 Best Books of Indiana - Poetry

Winner to be named on Friday, October 15, 2010

The House With The Mansard Roof by Matthew Brennan

The poems in this collection branch out and reach places you wouldn’t expect, moving through the mundane to the sublime and mysterious. The imagery in them is wonderfully surprising. History and family going back five generations root these poems in place. In a series of poems inspired by WPA art, Brennan transforms the quotidian into a world newly discovered and illuminated by strands of memory. This book is characterized by the crystal clarity of its language, the ability of its text to be read easily. It incorporates biographic detail with ekphrastic poems, subtly interweaves the poet’s own metaphor into the metaphor of the work of art that the poet has chosen to rematerialize.

Black Leapt In by Chris Forhan

Each poem adds to the power of the poem before it, so that the book becomes more than each individual poem, a powerful, evocative story of growing up.  The poems carried me along the arc of their unfolding narrative so it was one of the few books of poetry I read cover to cover in one sitting. Energy pulses through these poems, combining elements of the surreal with inventive metaphors that take us to surprising places, ones we never envisioned at the start of the poems. Each one--childscapes, family poems, love poems--leaps into darkness and creates bridges to the other side. This is a fine book of really hard worked and finished poems so that the reader feels that the poet got as close as he could, to what he was really trying to say. As with much good poetry it involves the reader with biographic details, the clashes of belief and disbelief that the author has somehow endured  - a book to be read aloud many times both to enable its understanding and for the sound of its voice.

Oran Wagner, Voluptuous Gloom

These melancholic, mostly love poems, build on the sensory world--crickets, moonlight, and storms to describe distance, loneliness, and those rare but sublime moments of connection.  An uneven but intriguing collection that introduces a strong new voice. This book is uneven with its many rough edges but the poems that do work are so infectious one is compelled to continue so that one does not stop but finishes the book at one sitting. There is an immediacy to the work with its use of colloquial images and language so that one is reminded of some of the work by the best of the “Beat” poets. The language in these poems is clean and articulate; the line breaks in the shorter poems are precise as a master painter adding brush strokes to a canvas. The longer poems were ambitious in both their subject matter and development.

Occasionally, judging panels select non-finalists whose work is deemed worthy of special recognition. They are:

More than I Could See by Dan Carpenter

The poems in the book contain moments of wonder and insight and delightful imagery. The final lines are so pithy and honest that I am startled into new awareness.

As If in a Dry Wind by Helen Frost

The well-crafted and complex poems touch on sensitive subjects. And here is praise from one poet to another—they made me want to write poems. Frost's exquisite use of language makes the everyday celebratory and praiseworthy.