Judges for the 2017 National Book Award in the category of Poetry have selected Wesleyan University Press title In the Language of My Captor as one of five finalists. The judges are esteemed poets Nick Flynn, Jane Mead, Gregory Pardlo, Richard Siken, and Monica Youn.
Acclaimed poet Shane McCrae’s latest collection is a book about freedom told through stories of captivity. Historical persona poems and a prose memoir at the center of the book address the illusory freedom of both black and white Americans. In the book’s three sequences, McCrae explores the role mass entertainment plays in oppression, he confronts the myth that freedom can be based upon the power to dominate others, and, in poems about the mixed-race child adopted by Jefferson Davis in the last year of the Civil War, he interrogates the infrequently examined connections between racism and love.
Critic Valerie Duff-Strautmann described In the Language of My Captor as reminiscent of the great Romanian poet, Paul Celan. And a review in Publisher’s Weekly noted that McCrae’s “raw honesty…refuses to shy away from the effects of oppression and faces up to those not willing to acknowledge their part in a history many want to forget.”
Past Wesleyan titles honored with the National Book Award for Poetry
Jean Valentine’s Door in the Mountain, 2004
Charles Wright’s Country Music: Selected Early Poems, 1983.
James Dickey’s Buckdancer’s Choice: Poems, 1966
In 2016, Peter Gizzi’s Archeophonics was a finalist for the Poetry award. Rae Armantrout’s Versed, which won the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Critic’s Circle Award, was a finalist in 2009. And in 1973, The Glorious Revolution in America, by David S. Lovejoy, was a finalist in the History category.